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Kerry Gyekis
32 Fischler, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, 16901| 570-439-5720

© Kerry Gyekis

Pennsylvania Consultant Forestry

Where do you get advice, assistance, or information about forestland?

If you own any type of forested land in the Northeast, you may have wondered how to make your woods more productive. You probably would like to know how much your timber is worth. You may want to know more about how to manage your land better. Ask a consultant forester.

What is a consultant forester and what can he do for you?

A consultant forester is a graduate forester whose independent business provides forestry services to individual landowners. The consultant forester's business is not affiliated with any timber buyer (such as a sawmill). A consultant forester will normally provide assistance in timber volume estimates, inventories, appraisals, marketing & sales, and forest management. Other services may include tree planting, timber stand improvement, trespass appraisals, wind damage assessment, forestland investment, and taxation analysis, among others. Charges for these services may be based on per acre, per unit volume, per day, or by commission.

In Pennsylvania and New York, the consultant service which receives the most attention is timber sale assistance. The long-term nature of forestry may allow a landowner only one chance in a lifetime to sell timber. Because of this, any timber sale transaction should be done carefully, correctly, and safely. This transaction should treat the landowner fairly and treat the land with care.

A timber sale is a prime example of the free market system: Prices are set by supply, demand, willingness of buyer & seller, and most important, by how much the parties involved know about timber and its markets. A landowner does well to represent himself or herself fully with a forester who is knowledgeable of the complex regional timber markets. As a typical example, a landowner may be offered $10,000 for his tract of timber. After he contacts several other local buyers, he could easily have offers up to $30,000. Yet, when he retains a consultant forester, the forester markets and sells the timber to a large, regional buyer located 50 miles away for $45,000. This is a hypothetical example -- yet illustrative nonetheless. One can easily see how a consultant forester, using his timber marketing knowledge and acting as agent for a landowner, can greatly benefit the landowner. As in any wise business transaction, the landowners/sellers should put themselves at a level of knowledge equal to that of buyers by way of proper representation.

The duties any consultant owes a client are:

  1. Properly advise the landowner to follow a timber growing and harvesting plan, which will sustain the productivity of the forest and the land.
  2. Inspect the timber harvesting on clients' lands for use of Best Management Practices to conserve soil, water, and wildlife habitat.
  3. Provide safety in the timber transaction.
  4. Market the timber to its highest price and best use.

Many other duties are involved which complement or fill out these primary duties.

As consultant foresters, we apply simple business sense to a knowledge of forestry practices and the forest products industry. The first step is to assess the forestland to determine a plan of action for either growing or harvesting the timber. If allowing the timber to grow is the landowner's decision, then we can provide information on maximizing growth, market timing, emerging markets, and need for intermediate activities.

If the landowner decides to harvest the timber, then we will conduct a timber volume estimate, either by means of a 100% tally or by a statistical sample of the timber volume. Timber volume and value is appraised by its quality, quantity, species composition, accessibility, etc. When marketing, we directly contact regional buyers to notify them that the timber is for sale under controlled specifications. We consider marketing to a wide range of buyers vitally important to the process. Regional timber buyers may be little-known in a local area, but very often they are strong bidders, despite the great distances they will travel.

In the bid invitation, we announce the date for timber showings and a bid date is set. The bid date is the time when sealed, competitive bids are received and opened. The highest or best bidder is chosen, and the landowner decides whether to accept the offer, based on the appraisal information already provided by us. Next, we draft a timber sale contract, keeping in mind the safety, protection, and objectives of the landowner. Then when harvest operations are active, we visit the property to inspect for contract compliance.

From the initial planning through the harvest, we act as agents for the landowner. Our private status allows us to be involved in the actual transactions and to protect the landowner throughout all dealings and operations.

Thinking about selling some timber?

If your goals for your land expressly prescribe a timber sale now, we normally walk your land with you and explain what we see and what we would recommend, based on what you explain as your goals (at no cost to you).

If you choose to employ our services for the timber sale, the cost is usually 7% of the gross bid for the timber. For this fee, we do a 100% cruise (measurement) and marking of the timber to be cut. We then write a prospectus, which includes the volumes of individual species, totals, maps, and general written needs of the owner. This we send to all prospective bidders (with the owner's prior approval).

Shortly after this mailing, we do a tour of the sale area with prospective bidders (if they so choose) and then schedule a time and place for the opening of sealed bids (from prospective buyers). Once these bids are in, we advise the owner concerning bid acceptance and then (if a bid is accepted) write a contract between the owner and buyer of timber. The last stage of our responsibility is managing the contract through its legal contract period.

If the owner/owners have not arrived at a consensus concerning their goals for their forest and/or have other priorities in mind, we would recommend doing a Long Term Land Management Plan to lay out those priorities before any cutting is done on the land.

Our costs for these plans varies with the acreage involved, the owner's needs, terrain, access, etc. We would be able to give you solid figures on cost once we've walked the land and have a clear idea of your needs.

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