Article #97, July, 2005
By Bill Cook
A request for
the dollar value of timber is the most common question that I field over the
course of a year. It is a very good question but not easily answered for a variety
of reasons. Stumpage varies with species, tree size, tree quality, stand composition,
stand volume, landowner objectives, site access, market access, geographical
region, season, weather, and a host of other factors. There is no "blue
book" of stumpage values and they range from zero to over 1000 dollars
per thousand board feet. A single timber sale might net tens of thousands of
dollars for a landowner.
value of standing timber is called stumpage. This is what the timber owner gets
paid by the logging contractor. Trees are a source of raw wood material. The
logger manufactures the trees into a product useable by a mill. The margin between
stumpage and mill prices is where the logger makes a living, if possible.
are tracked by a couple of services. They provide ball park estimates for certain
commercial tree species and products. For example, sugar maple veneer logs command
high prices. Scrub oak and ironwood pulpwood may not be marketable at all. Small
volumes of wood are the most difficult to move commercially, unless the trees
have exceptional quality.
three basic products manufactured from trees, pulpwood, sawtimber, and veneer.
Sawlogs and veneer have many sets of specifications, which can complicate pricing.
Many sawlogs have grades, with somewhat regular price ranges. However, there
are different scales for different species. Veneer specifications are often
peculiar to a mill and quite market-sensitive.
timber is sold in volume units of either cords or 1000 board feet (mbf). A cord
is a stack of 8-foot logs, usually pulpwood, which runs 4 feet high and 4 feet
wide. A board foot is the equivalent of a piece of wood 1 inch thick and 12
by 12 inches. Board foot volume is an estimate of the lumber inside a log or
tree. It does not include all of the wood in a log or tree. Lumber excludes
wood volume that gets slabbed-off at the mill or becomes dust as the saw blade
cuts through the wood.
So, how do landowners
learn the value of their stumpage?
Three basic ways
will unveil stumpage values in a specific stand of timber. The recent sale of
a similar stand close by might be a good indicator, especially if the timber
sale was a fairly simple one, such as an aspen clearcut. Talk to your neighbors.
Second, timber buyers offer free estimates and can often buy timber on the spot.
The catch is that they work for a company, not for you. Also, one buyer may
make an offer based on a different set of trees than another. This can be confusing
to a landowner. Lastly, you can hire a professional forester to help guide you
through the process.
with timber values, or who aren't overly concerned about obtaining top dollar,
will often use one of the first two methods. They work fine and many landowners
are satisfied with the resulting sale. Word about reputable loggers travels
well by word of mouth.
people are unfamiliar with forest ecology and timber values but want to receive
top dollar and protect forest quality. A professional forester, often a consulting
forester, fills this role. They work for the landowner and are familiar with
area logging contractors and mills.
will work with your objectives and prepare a strategic plan to get there. Timber
sales are often a key element of a forest management plan. The consultant will
work with both you and logging contractors to make sure a harvest follows the
approved forest prescriptions. Always use a contract and know what should be
in the contract.
Most times, there
are many facets to a timber sale. Which trees? What method of harvest? When?
Why? What about roads and landings? Wildlife habitat impacts? Visual quality?
Income tax implications? Keep in mind that the highest bid might not be the
best option. Many times, a logger will make concessions that reduce the stumpage
value, such as building a road or agreeing to a more challenging harvest practice.
A timber sale can go along way to achieving a wide range of management objectives.
For most people,
a timber sale is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you're concerned about
the future forest, then get the job done right. A timber sale is often a whole
lot more than just cutting trees down.
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Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at email@example.com or 906-786-1575.
by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005
J Road, Escanaba, MI 49829
906-786-1575 (voice), 906-786-9370 (fax), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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