Are loggers knocking at your door? You need a forester, according to Rene Germain, PhD. A professor at SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry and certified forester, Germain presented “Importance of Working with a Forester to Meet Landowner Objectives” at the recent New York Farm Show.
“Whether thinking short- or long-term, a consulting forester will pay economic, social and ecological benefits,” Germain said.
He said typically, forest landowners reach out to foresters only when they are considering a timber sale, enrolling in a tax incentive program, or in case of timber theft. Only the later two require a forester; however, landowners seldom think of engaging a forester for a timber sale.
New York doesn’t require landowners to work with a forester when conducting a timber sale, unlike many other states.
“It’s up to you to cover all your bases,” Germain said.
Only about 33 percent of New York landowners used a forester to administer a commercial harvest between 2011 and 2013.
Finding a forester is pretty easy. Germain said the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation lists all cooperating foresters at www.dec.ny.gov/lands_forests_pdf/cooplist.pdf.
But appearing on the list isn’t a seal of approval from the DEC. Germain said landowners should also ask if they’re a member of the Society of American Foresters (SAF). They should also be SAF Certified Foresters, which indicates a higher credential. As with any contracted worker, references can also indicate a quality forester.
“A good forester will strive to understand a landowner’s perspective and objectives,” Germain said. “A good forester will meet landowner objectives, whether financial, recreational or ecological through sustainable forestry.”
Germain said landowners should ask the following 20 questions before undertaking a timber sale:
- Do I have the right to sell ‘my’ timber?
- Do I have a mortgage?
- Do I have adequate access?
- Will I need a survey?
- What about permits?
Planning your sale
- What are my objectives?
- How do I know which trees to sell?
- How much volume do I have to sell?
- What is it worth?
- What about taxes?
Marketing your timber
- When is the best time to sell?
- What sales method should I use?
- How do I want to be paid?
- How do I advertise my sale?
- How do I incorporate the sale into my landowner objectives?
Protecting your interests
- What about contracts?
- What about insurance requirements?
- What about monitoring?
- What records should I keep?
- What next?
Though not professional surveyors, foresters can look up landowner’s deeds and better estimate which trees they actually own, Germain said.
A forester can help landowners with a walk through his woods and what Germain calls the “kitchen table talk” where they can discuss the landowner’s timber and potential for profit.
“They can tell if they have valuable wood, and they probably won’t charge you for that,” Germain said.
He also told attendees to consider the financial maturity of a tree.
“As the tree grows in size and age, it can increase in grade,” Germain said.
The tree variety also makes a difference in its value. Certain finishes go in and out of style, but Germain calls hard maple “our blue chip stock.”
For example, a sugar maple cut at 14 inches yields $86 as the landowner’s principal. But waiting 10 years, the landowner could receive $151 for the same tree because it will gain additional size. Germain said that represents a compound interest rate of 5.8 percent. He encouraged landowners to compare the potential profits of waiting on a 14-inch diameter at breast height (DBH) tree with the profits of investing the smaller dollar amount garnered from a premature harvest.
“If they desire at least 5 percent interest, the tree should be allowed to grow another 10 years,” Germain said.
Loggers tend to use two methods for performing timber harvests. One is diameter limit cutting, also known as high grading. Some loggers “sell” landowners on this method since it doesn’t require any skill but that of measuring trees’ DHB, so a forester isn’t needed. But Germain warned that diameter limit cutting will leave nothing left to cut for 50 years.
“Instead, implement sustainable forestry,” Germain said. “Use silviculture, the art and science of growing trees to meet landowners’ objectives.”
He believes most woodlots in New York are cut with “an exploitative fashion, focusing on new present value.”
By using sustainable methods, landowners can also maintain a more physically attractive and ecologically sound woodland property.
Landowners must also choose between lump sum sales and scaled sale.
Germain said lump sum sales transfer the liability to the buyer, make it easy to compare offers, determine the price before the sale, let market competition determine the highest price, minimize paperwork, facilitate faster payment, and are eligible for capital gains rate.
He added that lump sum sales also can make it difficult to market low-quality timber. It also limits buyers to those with cash flow, such as large sawmills, and they can be under-run on volume, which can lead to buyers cutting unmarked trees.
Scaled sales allow landowners to select a specific logger. They tend to favor local buyers, which can limit the amount of competition.
Germain said as a bottom line, “with high value timber, use lump sum with a forester. For low value wood, use a scaled sale with a forester. As the landowner, you have the least leverage, and that is why you need a forester.”