Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Timber for Sale: What you should know before contacting a timber buyer.

By Brian Hall, Resource Forester
Department of Conservation

Have you ever sold a house or car? Did you know an approximate value of that item prior to selling? Did you do some type of research on this item or hire a professional for a value appraisal? If you are considering selling timber, do you know the value of your timber or the long-term impact to your forest when harvested?

Selling timber can be an enjoyable and profitable experience or a complete disaster. The difference between the experiences is you. Most of the time you will only get one opportunity at a timber harvest on your property. Unlike your house or car that can be replaced in a short period, trees in the Ozarks take several decades to grow into merchantable size.

There is a tried and true process of selling timber. First, educate yourself about forest management. Do as much research as possible, allow sufficient amount of time to gain knowledge about sustainable forest management. There are several valuable educational tools at your disposal; Missouri Department of Conservation, U.S. Forest Service, Missouri Forest Product Association, and the Consulting Forester’s Association are just a few. Make visits to your local public lands for examples of timber harvesting techniques. Remember, if forest management is implemented incorrectly, the effects can last for centuries.
Second, have a forest management plan and follow it. Willa A. Foster said, “Quality is never an accident, it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” A forest management plan is a valuable tool for making short and long-term management decisions. A forest management plan is designed around your objectives and the land’s capability. Management plans are typically valid for 10 to 15 years.

After educating yourself, and developing a forest management plan, now it is time to sell your timber. This sounds like a drawn out process, but the process is critical in achieving the desired outcome. Following this process will most likely shorten the time between harvests and increase the profits on future harvest. Now who does not want more money while providing a healthier environment? There are many more benefits to managing your forest for sustainable yield, improved wildlife habitat, and lowered probability of wide-scale effects from natural events, such as drought, fire, and insect and disease outbreaks. You probably have heard about the red oak borer infestation and the effects it has on the forest. Managing your forest properly can reduce the impact of this and other natural events.

Third, have a timber harvest agreement. Make sure the timber buyer is following the agreement during the harvest. This is your only defense of any wrong doings. You may have sold the timber, but your ownership of the property is still intact, and you will be left with the aftermath, not the buyer. Also, check for information relating to timber taxes. This will allow you to make a more prudent decision on when it is best to harvest for your financial situation.

Not knowing what your trees are worth will only benefit one person, and most likely that is not you. The Department of Conservation can assist landowners with sustainable forest management. We will provide technical information about long-term forest management, but cannot determine the value of your timber. Consulting foresters are there to provide several types of forest management services, timber appraisals, and timber sales are just to name a few. Interview several consulting foresters and choose one best for your situation.

For a complete listing of Missouri Consulting Foresters, log onto

For more information about Forest Management go to the Missouri Department of Conservation webpage at or call me at (573) 368-2590 ext. 22.

For additional information about forest management, check out these helpful web sites:

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