Learn about contracts before agreeing to cut

Happy holidays, Everyone. I have been waiting for this moment since March — the end of 2020!

I’m looking forward to 2021 and, I hope, a return to some sense of normalcy. Until then, I’ll enjoy the snow as much as possible.

Your woodlands can be a great source of recreation, beauty and possible income. If you are thinking about selling your timber, there are a few key things to know, so if someone knocks on your door or sends you a letter offering to cut your timber, you know how to respond.

The best and easiest way to get the resources you need is to contact Call Before You Cut” or 1-888-424-8288. 

How do you want the woodlot to look

The first thing I want you to know is that if someone says they are interested in your woodlot, there are several other people who are also interested, so you will have options. Before you agree to a logging contract (and, yes, you want a contract) you need to know what you want your woodlot to look when the logging is complete.

Do you want all the valuable timber taken out, with only small trees left? Do you want a mixed stand that can be harvested again in a few years?

I get several calls a year from landowners unhappy with the state of their woodlot after logging is complete because this wasn’t discussed ahead of time. Once the trees are gone, so is your negotiating power. 

I’m going to reiterate this point again — never accept the first offer. The difference between one logging company and another could be tens of thousands of dollars.

Work with a consulting forester

The best way to know the value of your timber is to work with a consulting forester. These folks are skilled and knowledgeable, and can walk your lot with you to discuss the value of your timber and some options. They can also solicit bids and find a logging company that closely matches your expectations for both prices paid and expected outcomes.

Many times people balk at the idea of working with a consulting forester because there is a cost to do so, but from my experience, the happiness of woodlot owners working with a forester is much higher than those who do not. Generally speaking, working with a consulting forester will likely pay for itself in either the money you get in the end, or time you will have to spend cleaning up a mess from a bad logging contract.

The contract

Now, we need to discuss what should be in your logging contract. As with all contracts, make sure you read it thoroughly and understand it well. If a contract says that all trees will be taken that are 6 inches diameter or less at breast height (4.5 feet from the ground), I would suggest going out to your woods yourself to check how many trees actually fit those measurements. Once the tree is cut, there is no way to measure how big it was at breast height because only the stump is left behind.

Adding a stump provision, or a minimum diameter for the stumps left behind, is one way to help ensure that the trees that are harvested were of the agreed-upon diameter. If the stump diameter is only 6 inches, it’s unlikely the tree was 6 inches at breast height.

Another piece of advice is to never agree to sell timber based on shares or percentages, because then what you get out of it will be based on market fluctuation, and the cost of labor, trucking, fuel, etc.

OSU Extension assistance

There are lots of reputable loggers who can provide you with an income from your woodlot while being sure to leave it in a good state when they are done. Do your research before you sign a contract, and if you have questions please contact me at 330-638-6783 or by email, or Luke Walters, Ohio Department of Natural Resources service forester, at 614-309-6096. We can help point you to the resources you need about not only selling your timber, but also applicable tax laws, understanding timber contracts and more.

As always, OSU Extension Trumbull County is still here to serve you during the pandemic. If you have questions about soil testing, plant disease, farm bill, or generally anything about agriculture give us a call. We are working remotely to answer your calls, but we anticipate that our office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays starting Monday. We hope you all stay safe and healthy.

Submitted by Lee Beers, OSU Extension Educator, can be reached by email, or by calling 330-638-6738.


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