Finding help: Minnesota woodland professionals
A 1987 study of aspen harvests in Minnesota found that sales that involved a professional forester generated significantly higher stumpage revenues than similar sales that did not involve a professional forester. On average, sales with a forester generated about $21/acre (in 1987 dollars) more than sales without a forester.
Why? A professional forester has several roles. Some of the most important roles are to help the landowner:
- understand the different forest types, stand conditions, and other factors unique to the property in question;
- develop goals that are realistic and feasible based on the landowner’s vision;
- plan ahead for future woodland stewardship activities such as stand improvement, wildlife habitat enhancement, timber harvest, and other activities;
- develop a specific plan for any timber harvest operations, should the landowner choose to harvest timber;
- select the best logger for the job at hand, based on the forester’s experience with different loggers, knowledge of the landowner’s objectives, and knowledge of the property;
- ensure that the harvest proceeds in a manner consistent with the landowner’s vision and goals.
Choosing a Professional
As in any profession, every natural resource professional is unique. As a landowner, you’ll probably want to talk to several foresters and loggers before you choose the one(s) you want to work with. That said, it’s important for the landowner to know a bit about the different general categories of natural resource professionals. This page provides a short overview, as well as links to other sites with more information.
Public Sector Foresters
In Minnesota, most public sector foresters are either with the Minnesota DNR Division of Forestry or a Soil and Water Conservation District. Because their salaries are paid from other sources, public sector foresters are available to serve you for no charge or a minimal charge. Their job is to serve you as a landowner, not to generate income or wood for a mill.
Most often public foresters are available to answer general questions, develop forest stewardship plans, and assist in the preparation of timber harvest plans. However, public sector foresters generally are not involved in oversight of timber sales and harvests.
Private Consulting Foresters
Private consulting foresters are available throughout the state of Minnesota. Private consultants are paid by the landowner. Although specific responsibilities are negotiable, consulting foresters’ job is to represent the landowner when planning the harvest, selecting a logger, and/or marketing products harvested from the property.
Most consulting foresters are available to write forest stewardship plans for no charge or a minimal charge. In addition to these services, most consultants will work with the landowner to plan timber harvest operations. They will also solicit bids from loggers, help the landowner choose a logger, and oversee the timber harvest process.
Consulting foresters are often paid a commission from harvested products. However, most consultants are open to other fee structures if those are preferable to the landowner.
You can find a local consultant at the Minnesota Association of Consulting Foresters site.
Industry foresters are employed by mills. They are often called Procurement Foresters, because their primary responsibility is to purchase wood for harvest and delivery to the mill.
However, industry foresters do much more than arrange to have timber harvested. Many industry foresters are available to develop forest stewardship plans (or other kinds of woodland management plans), plan wildlife habitat enhancement activities, and much more.
In general, there is no charge for the services of an industry forester.
Loggers’ primary job is to purchase, harvest, and market wood products. Some landowners choose to work directly with a logger rather than working through a forester. Most loggers in Minnesota are members of the Minnesota Logger Education Program, which ensures that they participate regularly in continuing education activities. Some MLEP members are Minnesota Master Logger Certified.
Loggers earn a living by purchasing standing timber (stumpage) and harvesting, hauling, and selling it to wood processing mills.
Remember, every individual is different. Be sure to talk to a few professionals before selecting the right person for your job. Here are a few other considerations:
- “Green” Certification. Some foresters and loggers have been “green” certified. In order to maintain their certification, these individuals must conform to a set of standards established by the certifying organization. (Read more on our certification page.)
- Professional certification. The Society of American Foresters offers a professional certification program. Look for the CF designation. Click to read more about the SAF certified forester program.
- Years in business.
- References. Many landowners ask for references from other landowners who have worked with a given forester or logger. This is always a good idea. Other landowners can tell you a lot about their experience working with this individual.
- Contracts. You should always have a written contract before selling timber. Most foresters and loggers will provide you with a contract. Be sure to read contracts carefully before signing them. You can read a sample timber harvest contract for Minnesota here.
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