Q: What does a forest management consultant do and what are the benefits of hiring one?

A: A consultant is an advocate for the landowner in all aspects managing timber and timberland. They are skilled as a result of professional training and experience with knowledge of the latest information about management practices and timber markets.  A consulting forester implements management practices based on goals set forth by the landowner. These practices will produce the highest yield for financial returns, timber production, aesthetics, recreation opportunities or any other goal the landowner has for his or her property.

 Q: How do you charge for your services?

 A: For sealed bid timber sales where we conduct a 100% count of your timber, we charge a 7% commission of the sale price. 

For pine plantation thinnings, where timber is sold by unit, we charge $1.00 – $2.00 per ton depending on the amount of time and labor required.

For most other services such as, Appraisals, Management Plans, GPS Mapping, etc., we charge $75 per hour and a per acre rate if timber cruising is required. Inventory cruise fees for management planning, estate planning and appraisals are based the cruise intensity. For a specific quote please call our office at 601-693-2738.

Q: What is the process of selling timber?

A: When an entire tract of timber is sold, a sealed bid sale is the standard. The first step in this process is to locate and verify the boundary lines by the landowner and tax plats at the county courthouse. Once the boundaries are verified and flagged, a 100% tally of all sawtimber products on the property is conducted. This includes measuring each sawtimber tree with a steel diameter tape to the nearest 2” diameter class and recording it by its estimated height and species. This method of volume accounting provides the highest accuracy of the actual timber volume. After the sawtimber count is complete, a 20% pulpwood survey or cruise is conducted. Pulpwood is usually worth 10% or less of the total value of a timber stand and for this reason less time is spent to account for its volume.  Once the field work is completed the next step is to generate a detailed volume report. The final step is to create a Sale Prospectus with information about the timber sale. The Sale Prospectus is sent to approximately 100-120 potential buyers within a 90 mile radius of any given tract.

When a timber thinning is conducted we usually sell the timber products on a pay-as-cut basis. This is done for several reasons including; more control of harvesting operations after the timber is sold, better harvesting decisions and more precise tree selection.

When we conduct Salvage Timber Sales such as beetle damage or weather related damage we inspect the damaged and determine the area to be harvested. Then a pay-as-cut sale is conducted where several potential buyers submit per-ton bids for each specificdamaged product are submitted. Pay as cut sales are required when selling damaged timber because it is often difficult to ascertain the volume data required to advertise in a prospectus.

Q: When should I sell my timber?

 A: It depends on which timber products you have to sell, market conditions and your tracts location and topography. The timber market fluctuates with seasonal patterns and demand for specific wood products. Housing markets, economic trends, natural disasters, and global demand all play a role in determining demand at any particular moment in time. Where your property is located and how accessible it is in wet weather affects prices signifigantly. When selling timber located on an upland site with good access, you should plan to sell when wet weather limits the supply of wood to mills. During the winter, wet weather is more persistent and wood supply to mills is more limited, thus the stumpage prices are generally higher. If your timber is situated in low lying, flat areas or is a great distance from a highway then you may need to sell at least a portion of it in the summer and fall months when the ground is drier.

Selling pulpwood from pine plantations is less flexible than selling clearcut timber sales. Some sites will sustain logging in wet weather conditions but there is a limit to how much rainfall can be received on any site. Similarly to selling mature timber, you want to sell upland pine plantation thinnings from late fall through early spring when the weather permits suitable harvesting conditions. Other sites which are sensitive to wet weather will definitely need to be sold from late spring to early fall.  The time of year you sell timber often affects the price, so be aware of where your timber is located in regard to accessibility.

Q: Should I hold off thinning my pine plantation if there is a depressed pulpwood market?

A: Maybe and No! If your timber is on a good site and can be logged anytime you can wait a few months for market changes. If your tract is less flexible then you need to sell when logging conditions are suitable. The problem with waiting the market out is, you will often cost your stand 2-3 years in growth by not thinning when there is a good opportunity.  Keeping your stands growth as a priority will make you much more money in the long run than a couple more dollars from a pulpwood sale. 

Keep in mind, “Your goal is to produce high valued products in as short of time span as possible”. Anything you do to inhibit growth will extend your rotation and decrease your rate of return.

Q: At what age should I thin my pine plantation?

 A: Whenever it is ready. This can be from age 8 to 17. For most forestland sites or non farmland sites the average age is 15 years old. Sites with a high site index or old farmland sites can be thinned much earlier sometimes. The best way to know is walk into your stand and get away from the edges. Look at the portion of the tree with no live limbs. If at least half of the tree has no live limbs, it is probably ready. Also look at the average diameters. If they are at least 6 inches, this is another indication it may be ready. If you can’t determine on your own you should call a registered forester as soon as you suspect it may be time to thin.

Q: What does “Site Index” mean?

 A:  The Site Index of a given tract refers to the available nutrients and moisture commonly found in a particular tracts soil type and the ability of a given tree species to take in those nutrients and thier efficiency in using them.

Q: What is Basal Area?

A: Basal Area is the cross sectional area at breast height of a tree, and in forestry it is most commonly expressed in square feet per acre. It is used to determine stand stocking and can be averaged for an entire tract by conducting a plot-prism cruise. This requires taking plots using a pre-calibrated prism to determine the Basal Area in square feet. An average managed pine plantation should contain approximately 70 square feet of basal area per acre after thinning. Tracts with high site indices can sustain growth at higher rates.

To better understand what Basal Area means, picture all the trees on an acre being cut at breast height. Then put all those stumps together in one lump so there is no void space. The square foot area of ground occupied by wood is the Basal Area for that acre.

Basal area can be calculated for an individual tree by using the following formula:

.005454154  d2            d = diameter at breast height (DBH)

Q: Insects are infesting my trees. What should I do?

A: It depends on which insect it is.

The Southern Pine Beetle, the most prolific of southern pine insects, requires immediate action. This beetle is the fastest spreading pine beetle and can destroy several acres of pine forest per week in severe infestations. The best control is to remove all trees which have visible signs of infestation. To identify trees which are infested look at the lower ten feet of the tree and see if there is white crusty resin tubes with tiny holes in the middle of the resin. These holes will be approximately the size of a pine needle. Once you have established you have SPB look at the needles of all the trees in the immediate area. If a tree has yellowing or brown needles it is probably infested even if there are no resin tubes. Do not remove a buffer area of trees with no visible sign of infestation unless the beetles are spreading quickly. 

The other common beetles that attack pine trees are the “Ips Beetle” and the “Turpentine Beetle”. These beetles should warrant less concern because they usually do not spread as quickly and often do not kill the trees they infest. In some cases of severe drought followed by damaging storms the Ips beetle can cause moderate to severe mortality. The identifying signs for Ips beetle is most often yellowing or brown needles with little or no sign of resin tubes on the bark. If you look closely at the bark of a tree infested by Ips you will see scattered tiny holes resembling a shotgun pattern. Also, Ips beetles can often begin by inhabiting one limb of a pine tree. If this occurs you will notice one limb or maybe multiple limbs with yellowing needles while the other limbs in the crown will appear healthy.

Q: What are the benefits of using herbicides and is it worth spending the money?

A: In nearly every managed forest, at least one application of herbicide is needed to promote and sustain growth at some point during its life cycle. Herbicides are probably the most cost effective silvicultural treatment a landowner will use in growing timber. If your goal is to maximize pine timber production then you don’t want competition from other species like hardwood. When you consider Basal Area growth, for each unit of basal area from hardwood sprouts it can decrease pine Basal Area up to three fold. Herbicides also improve accessibility into a stand which results in more thorough management and volume accounting. In recent years as many forest herbicides have come off patent restrictions, there has been competition from generic brands resulting in reduced cost for many products. As a result of this, using herbicides is less costly and more reliable in controlling hardwood regeneration than using prescribed fire. For approximately $60 per acre you can control 80% of the competition in a pine stand for 7-10 years.

Q: When should I use “Fire” as a management tool?

A: Fire is not as commonplace as it once was. In years past many silvicultural treatment alternatives such as herbicide and mechanical treatments were not available. Also, the areas where we have historically have grown timber were more rural with little population. Therefore, fire was the best means of promoting timber growth and widely used.

Although playing a lesser role today, fire is still one of the primary tools a forester or landowner uses to manage timberland. Plantations which have or are increasing in ground level fuels should be considered for prescribe burning. If fuel levels are too high in a pine stand there is potential for devastating wildfires. Also fire is commonly used as a site preparation method when preparing a tract for reforestation. Most often when a tract is clearcut there is heavy areas of debris which may limit planting space. If this is the case then a site preparation burn is necessary. When determining if you should use fire as a management practice consider the conditions you are dealing with, the alternatives, and the cost benefit.