A few weeks ago, a gentleman emailed me because he had read an article I wrote a couple of years ago. This gentlemen planted a 20 acre tract not quite 20 years ago. He now wants to thin or final harvest the tract and is having trouble finding someone to do so because of the small size.
Below is a summary of my opinion and comments I provided him that are based on our family’s experiences as a timber landowner. Hopefully they may be useful to others in similar situations.
- Finding loggers for smaller tracts is not unusual as the logging force has contracted since 2008.
- Expenses for a logger in time, insurance, liability issues, permits, etc. make it almost impossible for tracts of 20 acres or less to be worked economically.
- We have the same situation with individual stands that are small but within larger tracts. We will have to wait past economic maturity to harvest those smaller stands when the larger stand is ready to be harvested.
- When planted 20 years or so ago, there were many more small loggers that could handle smaller tracts. My ancestors harvested many of these sized tracts with chain saws and a small dozer.
- Now loggers use large equipment that may have trouble maneuvering efficiently in smaller tracts.
- I suggested he might consider hiring a private, local forestry consultant to help manage the tract, help decide if harvesting is needed and how soon, and hopefully tie the tract to a timber sale with a larger, nearby tract.
- I also suggested he contact his Cooperative Extension Service forestry agent or state forestry commission forester for information about local loggers, local consultants, and other possible options.
- As a last resort, I suggested he might consider selling the tract to a neighbor as the best way to realize the expected economic benefit.
Forestry management is inherently a long term proposition. Be sure to try to anticipate what the situation will be in the future as you make your management decisions today. We attend educational seminars and meetings on forestry management as one way to gain useful information to help us make those decisions.
This situation is another reason that family meetings, discussion of all options with the family, and detailed records can help the next generation understand why and how things were done in the past as they face situations a long time in the future. The challenge of dealing with decisions today that may not be of benefit for many years is one reason we enjoy working with timberland.