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What do I do with my timber?

By Jim Griffith
Registered Forester #1616

I get calls all the time from timber owners who want to know what to do with their timber. Often, this is a general question to which I’m expected to definitively answer right then and there; so I do, “It depends.” And it does depend on the type, quantity, and quality of timber present. Timber management decisions also depend on the landowner’s goals for the property over the next 5 to 20 years. There are many variables that enter into the decision making process of “What do I do with my timber?”

Not until I have visited the property and observed the land and timber first hand can I give any kind of professional recommendation. Even then, there are many reasons for making decisions other than exclusive timber management. I recently looked at a property on which the landowner lives with his family. His pine trees are dying. Because the family lives on the property, they want an open view from their house, but want to hunt in the woods, work the fields, play throughout the land, and don’t want their sanctuary destroyed.

This is a tall order and it incorporates much more than timber management from an economical perspective. If we were looking solely for economics, it would be a simple management decision – cut everything and replant. This property is going to require several different approaches. A small area of mostly mature pine on the backside of the property is going to be clear-cut and replanted. In other areas of the property, where there are plenty of hardwood trees to be left, we will cut the pine, leaving the hardwood to maintain the integrity and aesthetics of the property. A large swamp area will be left undisturbed, as well as a steep and wide bluff along a creek bordering an extended boundary of the property. There will be an opening cleared below the house to provide extensive views of this long enjoyed sanctuary. All of this will be done with an environmentally sensitive logging crew while at the same time providing a substantial economic return from the property.

The timber management plan for the property with resident landowners is substantially different from that for a 500-acre tract whose owners live halfway across the continental U.S. After discussing the possibility of selling the land in the near future, which would have resulted in an entirely different management decision, the absentee landowners settled on keeping the land and cutting the natural mature woods and replanting.

This decision will maintain the land in timber production and develop an asset that will continue to provide a financial return in the future to this equally environmentally sensitive family. We will leave plenty of maturing pine on the property along with lots of natural stream buffers for wildlife management and water quality. All of our management decisions are accomplished using a well-qualified logger that we assure pays top price for the trees he purchases.

Jim Griffith is general manager of the GFB Timber & Real Estate Cos.
Georgia Farm Bureau News – July 2007

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