Rawlings Consulting Forestry, PLLC: Serving forest landowners in North Carolina since 1983

Timber Sales

At Rawlings Consulting Forestry, PLLC,
we don’t just sell timber,
we market timber!

Each timber sale is a customized package of services uniquely designed to meet the goals, objectives, and desires of the landowner while striving to obtain the maximum sale price for his or her timber. At no obligation and no fee, we will review the timber to be sold and provide consultation to ensure that the landowner’s financial and forest management objectives are met. As needed, we will provide suggestions, alternatives, and explanations so that you, the landowner, can make an educated, well-informed decision on the precise manner in which to market your timber. A customized timber sale will then be tailored to ensure the timber is marketed to secure the absolute maximum sale price while preserving the productivity of the land and soil, protecting water quality, and adhering to the forest management goals.

Types of Timber Sales

Timber sales may be conducted by one of several methods, of which the most common are lump-sum sealed bid sales, negotiated by-the-unit sales, and sealed bid by-the-unit sales.

A lump-sum sealed bid timber sale is generally associated with a final harvest or clear-cut and is designed to produce competitive bids between multiple timber buyers. In a lump-sum sealed bid timber sale, timber buyers from a large geographic area who are known to purchase a particular tree species, timber quality, or forest product are invited to review the timber to be sold over a period of several weeks. During this time, each buyer is allowed an unlimited amount of time to review and inventory the timber. At the conclusion of the review period, each timber buyer submits their sealed bid, a written statement of the maximum amount they will pay for the timber. The bids are opened simultaneously, and the buyer willing to pay the highest amount is awarded the timber sale contract.

A negotiated by-the-unit timber sale is commonly associated with a selective timber harvest such as a shelterwood harvest, seed-tree harvest, or a pulpwood thinning. A negotiated unit timber sale is designed to protect the residual un-harvested trees or special features within the timber sale area. The negotiated timber sale process invites selected timber buyers, each with an outstanding reputation for producing quality work, to review the timber to be harvested and submit unit prices (in dollars per ton or dollars per board foot) for each forest product and tree species to be harvested. From the submitted unit prices, a single timber buyer is then invited to enter into negotiations for the sale of the timber.

The sealed bid by-the-unit timber sale is commonly associated with selective timber harvests and pulpwood thinnings where achieving the desired forest management result is not anticipated to be beyond the capability of most loggers. As in a lump-sum sealed bid sale, timber buyers from a large geographic area who are known to purchase a particular tree species, timber quality, or forest product are invited to review the timber to be sold. However, in a sealed bid by-the-unit sale, each timber buyer submits a bid containing the maximum price per unit (in dollars per ton or dollars per board foot) they will pay for each forest product to be harvested. The bids may be reviewed simultaneously, or the sale may be finalized as soon as an acceptable price has been received.

A logger begins to cut a loblolly pine with his chainsaw.
A logger begins to cut a loblolly pine with his chainsaw.

Timber Harvesting Methods

Each timber sale may utilize one or more of several different harvesting methods.

Clear-cutting, the most profitable type of harvesting, has the capability to produce the largest amount of income per acre. Clear-cuts are considered to be a timber stand’s final harvest, removing all trees from the timber sale area regardless of size or quality. Clear-cuts are excellent for the natural regeneration of hardwood forests, and also allow for easy reforestation of pine stands.

A selective harvest is considered to be an intermediate harvest and includes seed-tree harvests, shelterwood harvests, and pulpwood thinnings. A selective harvest removes smaller, inferior, or diseased trees to provide increased space, sunlight, and nutrients to the larger, high-quality trees. By design, a selective harvest protects and promotes additional growth on the best trees, increasing the value of the future crop trees.

Single tree selection harvests are frequently associated with the uneven-aged management of natural growth longleaf pine. With single tree selection, individual trees over a wide range of diameters and ages are evaluated and chosen for harvest in a manner which maintains the stand’s pre-harvest age and diameter diversity in the post-harvest stand.

A residential harvest or high-grading removes most, if not all, of the large, high-quality, high-value trees, leaving behind only the smaller, lower-quality trees. This type of harvest is considered extremely poor forest management and should not be considered unless the land will no longer be used for forest production and will instead be developed as residential or commercial property.

Defining the Timber Sale Area

The area in which the timber is to be sold can vary in size and shape, limited only by the imagination and the amount of land owned. The sale area can encompass an entire tract of land, or be limited to only a few acres. The shape of a timber sale area is frequently defined by the shape of the property, natural features such as streams and ponds, manmade structures like power lines and roads, as well as the landowner’s forest management objectives. Wherever the timber sale area is adjacent to a property line, the line will be located and clearly marked with paint or flagging, depending on the landowner’s preference.

Water Quality Regulations & Rules

Further defining the shape of the timber sale area, a streamside management zone or riparian buffer will be established and marked along all intermittent and perennial streams and perennial waterbodies located within or near the timber sale area. Required by North Carolina state law, streamside management zones are designed to slow and disperse surface water, trapping sediment and excessive nutrients before they entering a stream, while also retaining sufficient shade to prevent water temperature fluctuations that may endanger aquatic life. Additionally, the North Carolina Division of Water Quality has enacted special river rules that regulate forestry and other land uses. The river rules vary slightly between river basins, but are generally more stringent than the requirements for a normal streamside management zone. Wherever a timber sale area is adjacent to or near an aquatic feature, a line representing the applicable river rules and regulations will be located and clearly marked with paint or flagging, dependent on the landowner’s preference.

Mapping the Timber Sale Area

Mapping the timber sale area and calculating its acreage is critically important not only for defining the location of the sale, but also for documenting the proper placement of the streamside management zones and riparian buffers. Calculating the proper acreage is vital for determining the volume of timber to be sold and may also be used to pay reforestation contractors after the harvest.

Rawlings Consulting Forestry, PLLC, was the first forestry consulting firm in North Carolina to utilize Geographical Information System (GIS) software and a sub-meter Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to provide unsurpassed accuracy and near survey-quality forest mapping. Starting with land deeds and survey maps, we integrate additional data sources such as aerial photography, road, soil, and topographic maps, and sub-meter GPS data collected in the field to define the timber sale area, property lines, and all streamside management zones and riparian buffers.

The Timber Inventory

An inventory of the timber to be sold, also known as a timber cruise, is vital for accurately determining the timber’s value. For small or irregularly shaped timber sale areas, or areas with high valued timber, a 100% inventory is conducted in which each and every merchantable tree is measured for both diameter and height and tallied according to species, forest product, and visible defects. Larger timber sale areas may be accurately inventoried by a statistical sampling of the merchantable timber. Sample points of a predetermined size and shape are evenly dispersed throughout the sale area and merchantable trees located within each of the sample points are carefully measured to calculate the timber volume. This type of inventory, known as point sampling, is referenced by the percentage of the sale area that was sampled, often between 10% and 30%. Electronic data recorders, or field computers, further enhance the inventory by double checking the product placement of each tree and eliminating errors.

A skidder picks up a log and begins to drag it to the logging deck.
A skidder picks up a log and begins to drag it to the logging deck.

The Sale

Lump-sum sealed bid timber sales and sealed bid by-the-unit timber sales are marketed over a large geographical area to numerous reputable timber buyers known to purchase a particular tree species or forest product. A timber sale prospectus or “Invitation to Bid,” which includes a timber sale map, forest inventory summary, conditions of the sale, and bidding details, is delivered to these buyers. The same prospectus, with additional inventory data and interactive location maps, is also placed on our company website for review and dissemination. In a sealed bid sale, 100% of the timber sale price is obtained from the timber buyer and delivered to landowner at the closing, or signing, of the timber deed or contract.

Negotiated by-the-unit timber sales, including selective harvests and pulpwood thinnings, are marketed in a similar but more restricted manner that places emphasis on buyers with outstanding reputations or who can provide examples of quality work. Payment for timber sold by-the-unit is negotiable and may be received in weekly payments as the timber is harvested, or as a partial advance payment based on a percentage of predicted harvest with the remaining payment made in weekly installments as the timber is harvested.

Logging Inspections

Frequent inspections of the timber sale area, access roads, and streamside management zones during logging ensure that the timber buyer is adhering to the “Conditions of the Sale” as required in each timber sale deed or contract. Conditions concerning debris in fields, logging on wet soils, stump height and other harvesting procedures are critical to maintaining soil productivity and lowering reforestation expenses. Additionally, loggers are checked for compliance with North Carolina’s Forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs) to prevent water quality and soil erosion issues.