Alert. Protect your timber. Protect your land. Be wary of unsolicited offers to log your land.

Do you own forestland with merchantable timber? Be wary of people who approach you with promises to log your land for lots of fast cash. Be equally wary of offers to "selectively log". I have been getting reports lately of loggers going door to door or writing to landowners, offering to log their property.

As a forester who often consults with property owners, too often I am called in after a property has been poorly logged and the owners have begun to regret decisions they made. Poor logging can cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage to your property. Trees that once created privacy and shade are gone. Logged slopes may be subject to soil erosion, mudslides, and flooding. Remaining trees may become vulnerable to blow-down. The property's wildlife and natural beauty-a big part of why you may have purchased the property-may be irrevocably lost for several decades.

These two rules may save you tens of thousands of dollars:

  1. Never, EVER deal with a logger who gives you an unsolicited offer. The good loggers don't operate like that, because they don't need to-you go to them, not the other way around.
  2. Never work directly with the logger, as it is an inherent conflict of interest. This doesn't mean that loggers, in general, are unethical (though some are, especially the ones that go door-to-door - see rule #1). But their objective is to cut as many of your trees as possible for as low a price as possible. Always work through a reputable consulting forester, whose job is to work for you to make sure your objectives are met and that prices are fair to both parties. Don't fall victim to the line from the logger about "cutting out the middle man." You could be left holding the bag. The cost of the forester usually much more than pays for itself and helps protect your land. WSU Extension maintains a directory of consulting foresters, as does the Society of American Foresters (see for links). Short-term economic gain may not be the best value for you in the long run.

Before you sign a contract with a logger, first get the answers to the following questions:

  1. Is the logger licensed, bonded, and reputable? Request references and check them. Contact DNR and ask if there have been complaints.
  2. What are the full costs of logging and how much money would you actually end up with? Have a professional forester, not a logger, estimate the volume of timber present on the property and the full cost of harvest. (Cooperative Extension has a list of forestry consultants.)
  3. Could clearing cause expensive problems such as soil compaction and erosion, or damage resulting from blow-down of remaining trees?
  4. If the cleared area is not replanted soon after logging, it will be invaded by weedy plants such as Himalayan blackberry. Have you considered the cost of invasive plant control? How much would it cost to clear the area a second time?
  5. Could you receive ongoing income by harvesting other forest products besides timber from your property, such as mushrooms, boughs and floral greens? There is an ever-increasing market for such products. If you are not interested in collecting them yourself, you may be able to lease collection rights to someone else. Cooperative Extension has a publication that tells you about these products.
  6. How will logging your land affect your income and property taxes? The tax implications can be serious.
  7. What value do the trees add to your property? Potential property buyers today are often looking for a low-maintenance landscape where they will be able to enjoy wildlife. Check with a real estate agent on the difference in market value of your land with and without trees.


I have just been advised by Kevin Zobrist, Area Extension Educator, Forest Stewardship (,425-357-6017) that WSU has developed a brand-new on-line class on selling timber:

The class costs $9.00 and will take 20 minutes of your time. Don't you think that's a worthwhile investment before attempting to negotiate over an asset that is worth tens of thousands of dollars and the removal of which will radically change the nature of your property and is irreplaceable in your lifetime?

Greenbelt Consulting does not administer timber sales.