Beware of coincidences with unscrupulous timber buyers. Often times timber buyer's work together in groups, and have a system in which each person approaches the landowner separately, giving the impression that they are all separate companies. Each individual may raise the price offered, or use a different sales pitch. The flurry of interest can give the landowner the impression something really special is happening with markets, or simply wear them down. The tactics used by unscrupulous timber buyers can vary greatly, and range from simple to complex. Oftentimes timber buyers already know a great deal about a landowner before they approach them so that they know what to say in order to get the Landowner to sign a contract.
If you are feeling pressured into selling and are not sure what to do, you should tell the individual that you need time to think about it. A true professional should understand and accept your need to think things through. This will also give you the opportunity to do some additional research to ensure that you make the right decision. For many people, a timber sale is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is important that the job is done properly, as there is more to timber management than just cutting trees. Making bad decisions in regards to timber management could be something a landowner will have to live with the rest of their life.
A "Consulting Forester" or "Timber Buyer" should be willing to provide references for his/her work. If their work is as good as they claim; they should have a few clients that are willing the talk about their experiences. While a "Consulting Forester" or "Timber Buyer" may want to be sure a landowner is serious about their desire to manage their timber before giving out contact information for their clients, they should be willing to do it before any contracts are signed. Do not hesitate to validate the references. Some dishonest "Timber Buyers" freely give out fake references, assuming that a Landowner will not actually verify them.
Landowners should always sign a detailed contract if they choose to sell their timber. All agreements should be in writing, and not just verbal. Timber sale contracts should not be vague. At a minimum, a timber sale contract should include the parties that are entering into the agreement (i.e. buyer/seller shown legibly with verified addresses), the terms of payment, the contract payment, how many trees or what volume of trees will be harvested, how the trees are identified for harvest, contractor insurance requirements, the length of the contract, any special provisions (i.e. no rutting, smoothing of roads, etc.), etc. It's a good idea to have your attorney review any timber sale contracts before signing. The money spent to do so may save you from making costly mistakes. If you are working with a "Consulting Forester", they will make sure that you have an appropriate contract.
Beware of Timber Scams
Many landowners become victims of unscrupulous timber buyers / loggers / timber companies. The majority of people employed in the timber industry are good, honest, and hardworking people. However, as in any business, there are those that willingly engage in unethical practices. The timber industry is very complex with a wide range of product, species, and pricing variables. The complex nature of the timber industry gives opportunity to those that desire to exploit unknowing landowners. It is important that forest landowners educate themselves or consult with a professional that can help oversee their timber management activities. There are professional organizations and government agencies that maintain lists of reputable Consulting Foresters that are capable of helping landowners with the management of their resource.
Some links to organizations that maintain lists of reputable Consulting Foresters are:
The following are some common issues that forest landowners are faced with and should beware of:
Beware of individuals that claim to be "Consulting Foresters" that are actually not. Many Landowners are aware of the benefits of hiring a "Consulting Forester" to assist with the management of forest lands. Unfortunately there are individuals that recognize this and portray themselves to be "Consulting Foresters", when in reality they are either "timber buyers" or simply lack the credentials to use the title of "Consulting Forester". "Consulting Foresters" do not buy/procure timber from landowners; they oversee the management and sale of timber products.
Be wary of so called consultants that offer free services. While a "Consulting Forester" may offer a free initial consultation, they will charge for any further professional services. Professionals generally need to earn some form of income in order to survive. If a landowner is not paying a professional for forestry services, then that means that someone else is paying for their services. This means that the professional is working on behalf of someone else (i.e. sawmill, logging company, him/herself), rather than on the Landowner's behalf. Some timber companies do employ reputable "Procurement Foresters" to purchase timber for them, however, it is important that a landowner know the difference between a "Timber Buyer/Procurement Forester" and a "Consulting Forester". Basically, the "Timber Buyer/Procurement Forester" works on behalf of the timber company, and the "Consulting Forester" works on behalf of the landowner.
Beware of high pressure tactics to get you to sell your timber. Unscrupulous timber buyers often use high pressure tactics or make it seem as though they are doing you a favor in order to get you to sell them your timber. Claims made by timber buyers such as the following should raise concern with Landowners: "Your timber is full of bugs and will die or be worthless tomorrow", "Your timber is full of bugs; if you don't cut it now, the Government will cut it and not pay you", "The market is changing fast and your wood will be worthless tomorrow", "Only I can give you a deal like this", "You will never have an opportunity like this again", "You should be ashamed of yourself for not managing your woodlot", "You don't need to have an attorney review that contract."
Based in Cadillac, Michigan, Drysdale Forestry & Consulting provides forestry, arboriculture, and landscape services throughout Northern Michigan.
I am a State of Michigan Registered Forester, an SAF Certified Forester, as well as an ISA Certified Arborist. I am an active member in the Association of Consulting Foresters (ACF), Society of American Foresters, International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), and Arboricultural Society of Michigan (ASM).