Woodland owners contract with loggers to cut and remove timber. This operation, sometimes called a "timber sale" or harvest, is complex and requires careful planning and supervision. Among other reasons, that is why the Maine Forest Service strongly recommends that landowners hire Consulting Foresters
to oversee timber harvests.
The decision to harvest should always be yours as the woodland owner, and is best based on the knowledge you've gained from your Woodland Management Plan.
One of the best ways to find and select a logger is through your Consulting Forester, who usually has established relationships with logging professionals they trust. Your Consulting Forester is required to work in your best interest. Your Consulting Forester typically should initiate contact with a selected logger. It is rarely wise to answer unsolicited requests from loggers to cut your woodlands. The unintended consequences of improper timber harvests sometimes results in landowners calling the MFS for help or to lodge a complaint against a logger. Once damage has occurred, though, there usually are few options for correcting the impacts beyond seeking financial remedies.
If you choose to work directly with a logger rather than through a Consulting Forester who can supervise the harvest, keep in mind that the outcomes of a harvest will determine the future of your woodland, and will affect your enjoyment of it for years to come. Just as a well-executed harvest can help you realize benefits you value most, a poorly executed harvest may cause damage that will take years and thousands of dollars to repair. Expect to make all decisions with regard to the conduct of the operation, the legal requirements of the harvest, and communicating your expectations to the logger.
Tips for Working with a Logger
Whether you hire a Consulting Forester or if you do choose to work directly with a logger, here are some helpful guidelines to follow. Even when working with a Consulting Forester, it may be helpful to learn as much as you can about the logger being recommended.
First, it may be helpful to interview several loggers. Your Consulting Forester can recommend some that work near you.
Second, always ask loggers for references of landowners and foresters with whom they have worked, and check them thoroughly. Ask if the logger fulfilled all obligations of the harvest, whether written or verbal.
Ask about the condition of trees that were not harvested, as well as the condition of the surrounding land and soil. Ask if the logger conducted the harvest on a reasonable timetable. Finally, ask for an overall evaluation. Talking to other knowledgeable woodland owners and hearing about their experiences with a particular logger will help direct your choice.
Third, ask about the logger's certifications and any specialized training they or their employees have. Make sure they have or can obtain necessary workers' compensation and liability insurance.
Finally, and most important, have your Consulting Forester draw up
a detailed Timber Sale Agreement or
Contract with the logger you choose to work with. Remember, a logger is under
no obligation to meet your objectives unless they are clearly defined in
a written contract.
This is only a suggested contract. Again, a Consulting Forester can help you write the best possible contract for the harvest you want to undertake. Some of the items you will want to address in your Contract include:
- The Contract Period - State clearly when the contract begins and when it ends, and whether there are periods during which operations may be suspended at the discretion of your Consulting Forester (such as during spring thaw).
- Access - Define where and how the logger will get to the stands to be cut, and in what condition any access roads and log landings will be left.
- Trees to be harvested - Clearly define in the contract what trees will be cut and what trees will be left uncut, and how they are marked in the forest. Often your Consulting Forester will walk through the stands with the logger to be sure that the marking is clear.
- Harvest boundaries - Indicate in the Contract and in the field where the harvest should take place. If the harvest is near your land's boundaries, marking the boundaries is a legal requirement and prevents expensive mistakes.
- Handling residual "slash" - Slash treatment (tree tops and branches left on a site after a timber harvest) should be defined in the Contract.
- Insurance - The Contract should clearly state what insurances are required before the contract is valid; do not sign the contract until you have insurance certificates in hand that are valid through the contract period..
- Payment - Spell out the basis for payment by type of timber (sawlogs, veneer, pulpwood, boltwood and other types), and include remedies for late payment, default or failure to satisfy other obligations under the Contract.
In order to protect yourself from the start, consider requiring a deposit or bond before harvesting begins If for any reason a landowner has a dispute with the logger, a copy of the Timber Harvest Contract signed by all parties will help clarify expectations, and becomes critical in any legal action.