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You Need a Forester
People own and buy woodland — or land that could be forested — for many reasons from esthetic to economic. Whatever your reason, if you own, plan to purchase or want to sell property you need a forester to help you with your ownership objectives.

Sources of forestry services

Advice from a forester can come from a variety of sources. Consulting foresters provide general or specialized forestry advice and services for a fee or under contract. They often serve as long-term advisers and representatives for their clients.

The US Forest Service offers landowner assistance programs such as the Forest Legacy Program, Forest Stewardship Program and The Forestland Enhancement Program. State forestry agencies provide advice and technical assistance such as preparation of reforestation plans and management, taxation advice, and information on cost-sharing programs. Most state service foresters will provide advice and local and regional offices of the Cooperative Extension System provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes.

Are there different types of foresters?

Yes as a woodland owner you may be appropriated by someone regarding your land or timber. Here are different types of foresters:
  • Consulting Forester — Landowners hire consulting foresters to help plan and manage their woodland. They know how to take care of the forest and ecosystem related to the forest such as streams, wildlife, and soil.

  • Procurement Forester — A procurement forester buys timber for a single or multiple companies.

  • Independent Loggers and Contractors — These individuals buy timber. While many are well trained and concerned about the sustainability of your forest, many are not. It's best to hire a consulting forester to help you with the timber sale and ensure long-term sustainability of your forests.

How to choose a consulting forester?

Landowners should keep the following in mind when selecting a consulting forester:
  1. Check credentials including education, experience and references.
  2. If your state has a licensing or registration requirement for foresters, is the individual in compliance? Many states do not require foresters to be licensed or registered, so you may have no legal assurance of a forester's qualifications. Check to see if the consultant is a Certified Forester®.
  3. Talk with other landowners or look at property with which the forester has worked.
  4. Ask the consultant about his or her fees. A consultant may charge a flat fee, by the hour, or a percentage of the revenue made from a timber sale.
  5. Be alert to possible conflicts of interest and if the person offering the service has other responsibilities that might cause biased recommendations.

What is the Certified Forester program?

The mission of the Certified Forester program is to serve as the competency and credentialing standard for foresters; recognize a forester's education, professional experience, and commitment to the ongoing pursuit of knowledge; promote continuing education in forestry and associated disciplines; and increase public awareness of the forestry professional.

How do I protect my woods from timber theft?

Timber theft is being increasingly reported by landowners both large and small. The best defense against timber theft is prevention. Here are some strategies used to steal timber and prevention tips:
  • Strategy #1 — thieves may harvest directly on your property or start on adjacent property and across property boundaries.
    You can help prevent this by:
    Inspect your property regularly and get good neighbors to keep an eye open.
    Maintain proper boundary markings especially when harvesting is occurring on an adjacent property.

  • Strategy #2 — thieves will offer low prices for timber knowing that the landowner does not know the true value of the timber. Misrepresentation of the timber value is a crime.
    You can help prevent this by:
    Get a second opinion on the value and volume of your woods. Contact a consulting forester or your local state forestry agency for assistance.
    Ask the timber buyer for a referral or inquire about the buyer at your local state forestry agency.
    Avoid the temptation for easy money or a "quick sell". Don't feel pressured by the buyer and give yourself time to think about what you are going to do.

  • Strategy #3 — thieves may steal trees after you approved and allowed the harvest. Poor accounting may cause incorrect reporting on trees cut or volumes represented.
    You can help prevent this by:
    No timber should leave the site on "pay-as-cut" sales unless the load is recorded by date, species, timber and destination.
    All records must be available weekly for inspection and compared to scale tickets.
    Visit the site at random times during the harvest.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission has issued the following list to help identify timber theft.

During and after harvest, be suspicious if...
  • The logger on your land is also hauling wood from adjacent timber tracts.
  • Logs and pulpwood are mixed on the truck.
  • Log trucks are hauling at odd times of the day, on Sundays, or at night.
  • Boundary trees have been cut or boundary lines removed.
  • The buyer won't return your calls.
  • The buyer tells you "the check is in the mail" or blames late payment on the mill.
To avoid timber theft ...
  • Know your timber's current value; prices change from year to year, season to season.
  • Know how much timber you are selling.
  • Get more than one bid.
  • Check buyer's references.
  • Make sure you have a comprehensive written contract that specifies how the contractor will pay and when; what is to be harvested; the price for each product; and the sawmills or woodyards to which different products will be hauled.
  • Establish and permanently mark property lines.
References: Timber Theft: Three Methods Used by a Tree Thief, Steve Nix, About.com