The following are some basic procedures that landowners should consider in order to achieve best forest practices. These procedures will be of particular interest to landowners unfamiliar with harvesting and forest marketing.
1. The landowner should define the objectives of the sale.
Timber payments are usually the first reason to harvest. Even more important to many owners is the condition of the property after work is completed. Forest health, fire fuel loading, visibility, trail creation and brush control are all common reasons to conduct operations. Thinning a dense stand, rather than clear cutting, leaves a residual forest pleasing to the eye that will grow faster and better resist fire and insects. Forest health issues (dead or diseased trees, root rot) can be identified and dealt with as a part of the contract. Slash (branches, limbs and tops left over from the harvest) cleanup is an important part of the job. Options include piling, chipping and burning.
2. Identify and mark improvements.
Septic systems and reserves, wells, water lines, power lines, special plants, tree houses and any other special features should be identified, located and marked in a common ‘save’ color with ribbon or paint.
3. Select a skilled and reputable operator (logger).
Landowners must be aware of risks they assume by allowing harvest activities on their land. The first rule is to select a skilled and reputable operator. That judgment can best be made by talking to other clients and looking at previously completed jobs. Key questions to ask:
– Were stumpage (landowner) payments timely and as promised?
– Was property left in an acceptable condition?
– Was operator professional in conduct and appearance?
4. Have a written contract.
At a minimum contract should include:
1. Parties, purpose and legal description of property.
2. Scope of work**
3. Stumpage, compensation and taxes.
4. Indemnification (hold harmless)
5. Term of contract (time)
6. Assignment, insurance and log accounting.
7. Amendments and disputes.
**scope of work considerations may include layout and forestry, permitting and forest management plan, road use agreements when applicable, marketing, road and landing construction, harvest operations, slash disposal and postharvest/regeneration.