Consult a professional forester to get the most for your trees.


COLUMBIA, Mo. – Too many landowners sell their timber for only a fraction of what it’s really worth, notes a University of Missouri Extension state forestry specialist.

“All too often a landowner accepts the first offer,” said Hank Stelzer. “This is usually because for most people selling timber is usually a one-time activity and they have no idea what the logs are worth.”

This lack of knowledge puts the landowner at a distinct disadvantage, he said. “I equate selling timber without knowing its value to a livestock producer selling his cattle without knowing how many are going to market or the quality of each animal.”

 Unless you are familiar with harvesting and marketing timber, Stelzer strongly recommends working with a professional forester. Decisions about which trees you sell and when and how you sell them will play a big part in determining how much you will earn from a timber sale, he said. Those decisions will also affect the long-term ecological health and economic potential of your woodland. Landowners also need to know about legal and tax issues related to timber sales.

The Missouri Department of Conservation provides some advisory and management services, but if you need prompt and comprehensive assistance, you are probably better off hiring a private consulting forester.

“There is no set fee consulting foresters charge a landowner,” Stelzer says. His advice is to shop around. “It’s no different from selecting a doctor or lawyer. You want to have a good working relationship. The fee you pay is more than offset by the increased revenue.”

Some of the services a consulting forester can provide include:

-Developing a harvest plan that fits with your goals for the land, such as improving its economic potential, promoting wildlife habitat, enhancing its scenic beauty or supporting recreational opportunities on the property.

-Preparing an accurate inventory of the timber for sale.

-Marketing the timber effectively.

-Advice on reviewing bids and negotiating a written contract.

-Monitoring of the timber harvest.

-Guidance on tax issues.

“The reasons for owning forestland are as varied as the 350,000-plus private forest landowners in Missouri,” Stelzer says. “But whatever the reasons are, a professional forester can help you develop your plan and achieve your goals.”

More information is available from a new MU Extension guide, “Selling Timber: What the Landowner Needs to Know” (G5051), available for free download at

You can find a qualified forester through the Missouri Consulting Forester Association at

Information on forest management from the Missouri Department of Conservation is available at

Questions to ask when selling timber

According to Hank Stelzer, if you can’t answer these questions, you might need help from a professional forester:

-How many trees will be cut?

-Will the logger take only the best trees and leave the rest?

-How much is the timber worth?

-How and when will the logger pay me?

-What condition will my woods be in when the logging is completed?

-Does the logger have liability insurance?

-How do I report this income to the IRS?

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