It’s safe to say that owning a woodlot takes more than locating and securing several acres full of mature trees and readying your army of chainsaws. However, seeing the trees before the forest is a good first step in knowing what a woodlot owner has in order to begin.

“One thing that (a new woodlot owner) needs is to have the land accessed. Hire logging guys who come out and assess the timber that’s there,” Duston Moore, digital/print advertising and brand marketing liaison for Wood-Mizer, said.

Steps of the Management Plan

  • Determine both your short- and long-term objectives. What do you want from this woodland?
  • Assess the physical and biological characteristics of your woodland.
  • Can this land meet your objectives? If not, what options do you have?
  • Develop a written management plan, which should include a timetable for meeting your objectives.
  • Follow the management plan to ensure that you achieve your objectives.

Moore added that these experienced foresters can offer helpful advice to new and seasoned owners. Such programs are in place. For example, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has a Forest Stewardship Program that provides “no-cost, one-on-one technical assistance,” that helps owners figure out their goals and objectives such as production and plant management plans.

A woodlot plan

Understanding that owning a woodlot is in no way a quick proposition, owners should methodically plot their business steps – from the relationship with a hired forester to the importance of creating a solid plan of action such as timber marketing.

“A forester can get real close and figure out what the grade of the lumber is,” Moore said. “They can help go through the entire process.”

Moore also mentioned that choosing the right equipment, specifically sawmills, is essential to any woodlot effort; however, owners should ask the right questions.

“You need to take it in default: How much work do you want to put in it, and at what price range for what you do?” he warned. “The more mill you want to buy, the more you cut into your savings of what you’re doing.”

Moore said when choosing the right sawmill, size is not necessarily an issue. “On our end, we got people who have built crazy nice cabins with our smallest mills,” he said. “We have manual sawmills, our LT15, where you’re pushing the mill across the log to cut the lumber, although it is a little bit more work intensive.

“For someone who is the owner of the land who is looking to production, then they have to have a hydraulic mill,” he continued. “They are going to kill themselves if they don’t.”

Kiln selection

Another aspect of woodlot management to consider is what to do with all that cut lumber. Having an abundance of supply is a consideration, but a round with Mother Nature can possibly cause your wood to mold, and not many folks want to buy green wood. A kiln, in the form of a kit or large-sized space, secures heat while it dries the wood, lowering the moisture content.

“Every time you add a process to lumber you are adding value to it. Just cutting it down and getting it down on a sawmill and rough cut – that is worth something. But getting it into a kiln and drying it, that’s worth even more,” Moore said.

For a woodlot owner, a kiln can help sell dry lumber and bring profits to that side of the business. The heat stored in a kiln can come from many sources such as propane, natural gas – or in Jim Birkemeier’s case – solar.

Wood-Mizer’s LT15 Manual Sawmill

For Birkemeier, who runs 200-acre Timbergreen Farm in Spring Green, Wisconsin, using solar energy to dry his lumber has been a main factor in his success. In his state, for example, lumber dries to near 12 percent moisture content. Birkemeier’s solar dry kilns on the farm dry to 6 percent thanks to the added heat of the sun.

Once the lumber is at 12 percent, the kiln’s doors shut, creating an airtight space that receives the sun’s heat from the rooftop collector surface. A black-painted window – a layer of used corrugated metal roofing located below the kiln – is heated to temperatures of up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Two climate-controlled fans circulate the hot air thus removing the remaining 6 percent of moisture.

“The cost of the electricity to run the fans that circulate the air is about one-tenth of a cent per board foot, and we add $1 in value per board foot by drying the lumber,” Birkemeier said.

Think it through

Having the proper evaluation of your woodlot literally goes a long way. Noted by Lynn Kime, senior extension associate at the Penn State Extension-College of Agricultural Sciences, the business of woodlots is a time-consuming, laborious process.

“It takes four or five generations to grow a high-quality woodlot in Pennsylvania,” he stated in the essay, “Managing Small Woodlots.” “One or two poorly planned and implemented harvests can destroy that woodlot for generations to come.”