Southern Maine Forestry
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How Do We Select To Whom We Sell Our Clients' Timber?

To begin we only work with loggers and other buyers who have good reputations. We have been in business for a long time and know at least by reputation most of those who buy stumpage in our working circle. For those we don’t know, we have a great network of other foresters and landowners who will give us honest opinions. For the occasional new buyer who comes along we select the first sales to them carefully. Ideally clearing jobs or harvests of low grade that are fairly easy logistically. If they do good work we will try them on more complex sales and start to build a database on their work.

When we prepare a client’s woodlot for sale we are sticklers for detail. Some say we are anal. Almost always the trees to be cut are marked with paint. As we select the trees to be cut we also lay out the trails over which the trees will be removed to the landing. Terrain features like rocks, ridges and slope are used along with trees that are marked as “bumper” trees are used to control the skidding of the trees to minimize damage to residual trees.

Finally and important for us to meet our fiduciary responsibility to our clients we almost always tally the trees marked for cutting so that we can calculate an estimate of the volumes of forest products to be produced. When only low value pulpwood or biomass is to be produced it is not worth the extra time to do a full tally but will tally the higher value sawlog stems and we often take a few sample plots to get an estimate of cords or tons of low grade marked for sale.

The table below shows something only our clients know and you must be a client to benefit from this knowledge. As mentioned above we have calculate estimates of volumes contained in trees marked and to be sold from our clients’ properties.

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Income from the sale of timber is determined by two things. The prices paid and how trees are utilized. High prices don’t mean much if too much of the stem goes into pulpwood or chips, low value products.

How do we use these tables. Percentages in the sawlog columns over 100% are good. It means the trees are used as well or better than expected. This logger does a great job of utilizing softwood overrunning our sawlog estimates for all species. He also overruns our softwood pulpwood estimates. Now one question that comes should be asked; is he cutting unmarked trees and getting extra volume there? Our inspections of his work tell us he does not cut many unmarked trees. So he is simply good at cutting and utilizing softwoods and makes the land owner more money than our average logger. (Remember our average is logger is better than average, so this guy is good.) He doesn’t do as well on making sawlogs from trees of hardwood species. And he underruns on hardwood cordwood as well. Too much of the hardwood trees he cuts goes through the chipper for biomass fuel and he tells us he doesn’t like cutting hardwood. We are more than happy to sell him softwood but we wouldn’t choose him to cut a lot that was mostly hardwood.

Our clients know we sell to buyers who are good at utilizing trees for their highest and best use. And the loggers we use are proud of doing good work and know we check their work and what they produce.

How good do loggers who don’t work with us utilize trees for their highest and best use. We have no data with which to answer that. Anecdotally some do an awful job. When we see truck after truck loaded with big beautiful pine logs coming off jobs we drive by we wonder what is happening to the small logs and shorter, rougher and top logs on those jobs. (Normally those make up 30-40% of pine sawlogs on our jobs.) Or when we see truckloads of tree length hemlock from which no logs have been cut. (That would be 0% hemlock sawlogs produced.) Or as one firewood processer told me when I said to him he had some pretty nice looking tree length hardwood. “Yea I sort out about one load of logs for every five loads of firewood Not-so-able Logger brings me.” (That is 20% of the volume sold as firewood had a higher value as sawlogs!) But then, none of that is our worry. Those landowners did not hire us.  

jeanie Clemmer