Yard Trees Are Not Timber

Posted by Jim Griffith
Registered Forester #1616

I see straight and tall pine as well as giant oak trees in yards and subdivisions all the time. We all do. I even get calls regularly about logging trees on one to two acres in a neighborhood, all situated around a house. I even have some awesome 20″ diameter 90 feet tall trees in my own yard.

Unfortunately, it is no longer feasible to log yard trees. The days of the short-truck harvesting operations are gone. Short-truck harvesting refers to the old days when a short-bed truck could harvest even just one tree from a yard among yards. The trees were cut into short lengths and loaded on this short-bed truck and hauled to a concentration yard for the mill. The cost of this operation is no longer feasible and this style of logging has passed with the times.

In the yard of the first house I built, I had a short-wooder (a logger working from a short-wood truck) come out and cut the trees where my house was to go on a one-acre lot, and I made, what I thought at the time, was good money doing so. However, liability of operating around improvements, along with the cost of moving more and significantly larger logging equipment to the site, make it cost prohibitive for loggers harvesting small groups of trees like the old days. Even property owners with timber stands yielding only 10 to 20 truck loads will count themselves fortunate to find a logger that will cut their trees, and then they can count on the job being done at a reduced rate. It is simply a matter of economics.

The short-wood operation during its day allowed an operator to get into the pulpwood business with the cost of a short-bed truck and a good saw. This is a far cry from the millions of dollars invested in the equipment required to run a logging operation today. And along with larger equipment and larger investments, come the requirements of larger payments and larger costs to move from one tract to another and larger quotas needed from the mill to keep the equipment moving, the trucks hauling, and the wood flowing; all in an effort to keep the cash flow positive and the bank current.

Regardless of the number of trees, or acres of trees, you have you still need to talk with a professional forester when considering a sale. If you have a small amount of trees, your forester may have a crew operating nearby that would cut the cost of moving significantly, and thereby makes harvesting trees more feasible. Also, I have seen some small tracts of land with large volumes of timber situated thereon, making the timber sale more desirable. It is usually about the volume and the volume per acre that affects price more readily than the number of acres; but your forester can help determine the feasibility of your timber tract.

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