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Land Management

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Land Management

As both landowner and logger, there's much to consider

Well, talk about a learning curve! Turns out that cutting down trees, getting them out of the woods to a landing, de-limbing them, cutting them to length, loading them onto a trailer and hauling them to the mill is way too much for one guy and a tractor to do. Now, it may be this particular “one guy” but I am thinking there is a reason you do not see one-man logging crews.

At any rate, I did find that one guy and a tractor can do pretty well thinning, removing and processing small trees into fencing but still, it is tough/slow work for sure. In addition, it seems that if the land manager is also the sawyer, skidder and bucker then things would be more simple with less confusion, but this turns out to be far from reality. I find that as both the landowner and the logger, I tend to flip flop back and forth on how much and which trees to harvest, depending on my economic situation or feelings about it on any given day. It is imperative that the land owner know and understand fully the motivation for cutting/harvesting and the consequences of taking to many or too few trees, etc.

I would say the most important aspect of harvesting timber and/or cutting trees for habitat improvement, aesthetics, or for what ever reason, is to use a professional land manager/forester. The second most important aspect is to make sure you hire a environmentally conscientious and ethical company to do the actual work, if you are not doing it yourself. Now, this may or may not cut into your profit margin because many times both the land manager and the harvest company/ logger can actually increase revenue by making more efficient use of the timber and associated products. It is all about maximizing utilization.

For instance, if you know how to identify cedar poles and separate them out for niche marketing you can increase your profit as much as two or three times what a cedar log would get at the lumber mill. Also, knowing how to process the logs on the landing is very important because there are lots of tricks to maximize the scale at the mill, like cutting out the sweep of the butt log, even though you may actually have made the log shorter. Also, knowing how much rot and what types of rot are acceptable is important because an inexperienced bucker may cut off way more rot than is needed or too little, which could effect the scale greatly. Knowing which trees are good for house logs and which are best for lumber and which are best for pulp, etc. can make a huge difference in the amount of money you get for the timber.

However, profits aside, the real importance is the integrity of the land, as I have said before, the land owner and/or land manager are but temporary stewards of the land; our stewardship is but a blink in time but the land is eternal. We owe it to the overall ecosystem and future generations of heirs, wildlife and trees, to make sure we maintain, if not improve, the integrity of the land and the associated ecosystems.

This to say, there is much more to harvesting than just cutting the big trees and letting the little ones grow. In fact, that is probably the worst thing for the land and future forest that one could do. One of the biggest mistakes made when a landowner skips the land manager and calls in a logger is that many times the smaller trees are thought to be young trees or the land owner is told that anyway, but most times the smaller trees may be as old as the big ones but are just suppressed. They will never be a good tree or grow well, as they are inferior genetically and stunted environmentally.

Another common mistake is to log in spring or summer and opening up the shade loving trees to the full sun because they will all die in a year of so from sun scald. A good land manager will know that if there is going to be a lot of shade loving trees left and opened up to full sun, how and when to cut to minimize the sun scald.

What trees should be left and where? You don’t want to leave say a Ponderosa pine down in a wet area, thinking it will be a good seed tree because the seeds and trees are geared towards dry, full sun sites. 

Most properties have many different directional aspects and micro sites, each which will grow certain species much better than others, so it is important to know which trees like to grow where and what is required for the seeds of the various species, to germinate successfully. Trees such as larch will require bare soil for their seeds to germinate, for example. Then there are diseases which will kill a tree in a couple of years but unless you know what to look for, the tree looks perfectly healthy. These are but a few examples of the complexities of good forest and land management.

Now, the men on the ground doing the actual work are equally important, because the harvest techniques, transport systems, log skidding routes and even landing choices can all affect the land now and into the future. No matter how much oversight by a land manager, if the harvest company with the men and equipment on the ground, are not environmentally conscientious and ethical, they can do a lot of damage to the integrity of the land and to your profit margin. Some companies have been known to credit some loads of logs to their own accounts, which is just a matter of switching load tickets after leaving the site, to a ticket indicating the timber comes from their own property or a straw man. The Forest Service had to go to special marker paints to mark trees because so many companies would carry their own paint and change the marking to reflect the trees they wanted to cut. There are many viable reasons to have to change some tree marking due to hazard situations and sometimes the trees do need to be substituted, but those reasons can become convenient excuses to cut the more valuable or more easily harvested trees, instead of the ones marked. Now I am not saying this is widespread, but it does happen and it is important to know the reputation and work of the outfit you hire.

I can both offer my services as a land manager or would be happy to refer to other reputable land managers. I also know of some very good companies that are both environmentally sound and ethical. I always offer my land management consulting services to my real estate clients for free and I am available on a contract basis for non-real estate clients. I can assure that the harvest companies / road building companies will do a great job and maximize your revenue too. Just contact me at my email above with any questions or for referrals.


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Author info

Michael White Michael White is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker - Sterling Society and a consultant for Northwest Group In-Land. He has a BS in Forest Resources & Ecosystem Management and specializes in land, ranches and homes with acreage.

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