Protecting the Family [Tree] Farm

Many Ohio landowners have properties with a fair amount of wooded acreage. Many of these properties have been in the family for generations. Even for those who recently acquired wooded property, landowners often desire that the property be preserved as woodland in the future.

I’ll be sharing tips for protecting tree farms or wooded property in a brief series. This first post will discuss how to protect you or your family’s property right now when it is being logged or timbered, and the next post will discuss how to protect the property in the future, through tools such as trusts or conservation easements.

Timber! How to do it Right

It’s common for owners of wooded property to log some standing timber off their property, whether on a consistent basis, as a running tree farm, or to promote the health and diversity of any stand of woods, by occasional selective harvesting. When done properly, this can benefit your forests in the long run, promoting healthy tree growth. Many of these transactions may take place neighbor-to-neighbor, or between friends. Whether you are going to have your property logged consistently, or you’re needing to sell just a few trees for property taxes, or anything in between, these are a few things you should look out for:

Avoid Timber Theft

Even if you don’t have plans to sell standing timber or logs off your property, someone may be logging your property, illegally. Timber theft is a real threat today, as timber is still a valuable commodity. Unsurprisingly, this is more likely to occur if you own many acres of wooded property and don’t visit it very often. Timber is valuable and can be stolen like any other property. If you or a family member has wooded property that doesn’t get used very often, make sure someone is checking on the property occasionally. In 2016, a logger was sentenced to four years in prison for illegally harvesting hundreds of trees from the land of an elderly and unsuspecting landowner.

The Right Property

If you’re a logger, make sure that you have proof of property lines so that you don’t cut down trees from neighboring properties who did not give consent for timbering. This may seem like an obvious step, or an unnecessary step, when you’re simply logging trees for a friend, or neighbor, upon their direction. However, you could be charged with trespass and theft if you cut down trees from the wrong property – even if you believed that you had permission to cut down those trees.

The Right Words

It’s best to have a clear timber contract for any logging. Why do you want a timber contract? Well, why would you not want one? Contracts provide accountability, standards of care, and deadlines. Of course, not all contracts are created equal. A bad timber contract is worse than not having one at all. A good timber contract should include terms such as identification of the trees to be cut, the timeframe for the logging, and what would happen if the terms of the contract are violated.

The Right Appraisal

Make sure that you know what trees are going to be cut down and what trees should be timbered for the best value. Consider obtaining a state certified forester to assist you in valuing the trees and identifying which trees should be sold at what time, or at least someone who is not employed by the company logging your land. Simply cutting down the most valuable trees all at once (high-grading) does not promote good land management and can be avoided by having an unbiased expert assist you.

Timber can be a valuable resource and properly managing the timber on your property can help keep the forests on your property healthy for years to come.

If you want assistance with a timber contract, or if you or someone you know has been harmed by illegal timbering or poor logging practices, contact us for a consultation.

Moriah E. Schmidt

Attorney At Law

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