It pays to plan ahead when selling timber -- Part 1

Selling timber from your forest land can be a stressful experience. In this two-part series from MSU Extension, tips for planning and conducting a commercial timber sale in your woodland will be discussed.

The sight of a whole tree timber processor working in a woodlot or a rubber-tired skidder moving down a wooded trail may scare some woodland owners – as many landowners are apprehensive of harvesting timber from their land in fear of ruining it. However, that doesn’t have to be the case.

If landowners take the time to adequately prepare for a timber sale, then selling timber can be a very rewarding experience. It not only results in some additional income for the landowner, but more importantly, creates new opportunities for wildlife and for the forest itself. From a forester’s point of view, harvesting is a tool to accomplish something more than just cutting down trees. For example, harvesting timber is often an excellent way to create habitat or browse for wildlife and regenerate the existing stand of trees. When viewed in those terms, the idea of harvesting timber in their own forest becomes much clearer to most people.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that any landowner considering selling timber from their property learn more about the process before looking for a buyer. Many people don’t always realize that selling timber is a business transaction and should be treated as such. Therefore, landowners should market their timber by doing their “homework” first and not just sell their timber to anyone who offers to buy it.

Like other types of commodities, the demand for timber from privately owned land varies over time – due to the nature of the wood industry and the overall economy. However, when the demand for wood products begins to increase the result is that many landowners get contacted by people wanting to buy their timber. This is generally a sign that landowners have something of value in their woods. Consequently, landowners should proceed carefully after being contacted to be sure that what they are being offered for their timber is a fair price. In short, they should not rush into selling and get help, if necessary.

Help is readily available from professional foresters in Michigan. No matter what type a forester a landowner chooses (consulting, industry or government), all should be able to give that person sound advice about managing their timber. Michigan State MSU Extension also has new publication available that explains the services that forestry consultants offer to landowners.

In Part Two of this series, MSU Extension will provide some additional tips and recommendations for planning out a successful commercial timber sale on your forested property.

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