Rawlings Consulting Forestry PLLC

Services We Offer

Rawlings Consulting Forestry PLLC is here to serve you. We assist forest landowners with a wide variety of activities, including:

Baldcypress growing next to a shallow creek in eastern North Carolina

Forest Management

Effective stewardship of your woodlands

Professional forest land management is tailored to the unique needs of the individual landowner. Landowners and municipalities with active forestry programs will find it advantageous to have a professional consulting forester implement their forest management plan or supervise multiple or ongoing forestry projects. Absentee landowners and individuals unable to navigate the terrain of the forest may require the same type of assistance or simply desire a professional forestry consultant to review their property on a regular basis.

Forest Land Management may include:

  • Implementation of the Forest Management Plan
  • Supervision of forestry projects
  • Regularly scheduled walks of the property
  • Aerial observations for beetle activity
  • Beaver activity monitoring
  • Annual progress reports

Forest Land Management may be beneficial for:

  • Large private landowners
  • Municipalities
  • Landowners with multiple forest projects
  • Absentee landowners
  • Investment firms
The loading deck at a North Carolina logging site

Timber Sales

Selling standing trees for harvest

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.

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.

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.

A thinned stand of longleaf pine

Pulpwood Thinning

Removing a few trees so the rest grow faster

A pulpwood thinning may be the most important forest management tool available for sustaining a vigorous crop tree growth rate and thus, providing a higher return on your investment, protection from many forest insects, and improved wildlife habitat. When properly conducted, a pulpwood thinning removes trees from over-stocked plantations and naturally regenerated stands to provide a uniform spacing and optimal exposure of the crown to sunlight. The thinning process may be conducted by harvesting individual rows of trees from a plantation, parallel swaths from natural stands, or individual tree selection focusing on removal of smaller, diseased or deformed trees. In many cases, a combination of techniques is utilized to provide increased benefits. For each pulpwood thinning, services are individualized to ensure forest management goals are obtained while maximizing income from the thinned timber and protecting the future crop trees.

The following is a brief summarization of many services that may be provided for a pulpwood thinning, each of which can be modified to enhance the thinning and adhere to the desired forest management objectives:

  • The relocation and marking of property lines
  • The marking of creek buffers, filter strips, and stream side management zones
  • GPS data collection of property corners, creek buffers, and other physical attributes as needed
  • GIS detailed mapping of the timber sale area and access paths
  • The inventory of the merchantable timber
  • The drafting, printing and distribution of the "Invitation to Bid" and the meeting with prospective timber buyers
  • The conducting of the sealed bid timber sale and acceptance of deposit money by the successful bidder, or a negotiated sale to a chosen buyer with a reputation of conducting high quality pulpwood thinnings
  • Supervision of the preparation of the timber deed or harvesting contract, disbursement of the sale proceeds, and preparation of the closing statement or if harvesting by the unit, weekly harvesting statements
  • Supervision of the pulpwood thinning to ensure sale conditions are met and crop trees are protected

Pulpwood thinning may be beneficial for

  • Private landowners
  • Municipalities
  • Airports
  • Investment firms
  • Individuals wishing to maximize profits
  • Wildlife habitat improvements
  • Protection from tree killing insects
A stand of loblolly pine seen from across a field

Forest Management Plans

Strategizing for the future of your forest

A forest management plan is a guide that provides a series of steps or recommendations designed to assist the forest landowner in obtaining the goals and objectives of forest land ownership.

Each forest management plan, from the very basic to the most comprehensive in nature, is tailored to the individual objectives, goals and needs of the landowner. While the production of forest products remains the foremost consideration for most landowners, the recreational benefits of land ownership are becoming increasingly important. Activities such as mountain biking, trail riding, hiking, and hunting are considered by many to be vital aspects of land ownership and can be alternative sources of income. Other landowners strive for the perfect wildlife habitat to encourage and increase the population of quail, turkey, rabbit and, for some, federally endangered species such as the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. The forest management plan blends the landowner's objectives, goals, and leisure activities with the production of forest products in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Basic Forest Management Plans

Basic forest management plans are short-term in nature and generally cover a time period of 10 years or less. These plans are often referred to as tax plans or Forestry Present-Use-Value Property Tax Plans. The plans generally provide very fundamental forest management recommendations or are used to address a specific need, such as reforestation. Basic forest management plans include the following:

  • A statement of the landowner’s forest management objectives.

    This statement describes the landowner’s short-term goals for the management and use of his or her forest land.

  • A description of the property.

    The property’s description includes its location, deed references, survey maps, and tax identification numbers.

  • A GIS map of the property.

    Developed utilizing deeds, survey maps, aerial photography and other publicly available data, the GIS map will include a location map and identify unique stands of trees or types of timber, water features, farm paths, public roads and other areas of importance.

  • A description of each timber type.

    Each stand of similar timber, or timber type, is described in terms of tree age, average tree size, dominant tree size, growth rates, the general health of the stand and, if known, the history of the stand. The timber stand description will also include general soil information such as the soil type, productivity, and recommendations for dry- or wet-weather logging.

  • A prescription for each stand of timber.

    Each prescription consists of the steps required to meet the basic or short-term forest management goals, including the estimated harvest times, harvest methods, regeneration methods, and when the stand of timber should be reviewed again.

Forest management plans also include relevant supplemental forest management information about water quality, woods path maintenance, prescribed burning, and the marking of property lines. With respect to water quality, a forest management plan may also contain applicable Forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs), information on streamside management zones (SMZs), and special river rules enacted by the NC Division of Water Quality.

Comprehensive Forest Management Plans

Comprehensive forest management plans are long-term in nature and generally cover a time period that extends until the final harvest of the current timber stand. Frequently, comprehensive forest management plans will also cover reforestation, or the establishment of a new timber stand, with growth projections and recommendations for the first thinning based on soil productivity.

Comprehensive forest management plans often provide detailed forest management recommendations based on a current forest inventory, tree growth data, and/or tree growth projections. They include all of the features of a basic forest management plan, and may also incorporate the following:

  • A statement of the landowner’s long-term forest management objectives.

    These goals may include special financial needs such as college tuition, retirement, or the transition of the forest land to the next generation.

  • A detailed GIS/GPS map of the property.

    The map will incorporate publicly available data such as land deeds, survey maps, and aerial photography with GPS data acquired on site that locates and maps important features with sub-meter accuracy. GPS technology allows the mapping of features normally hidden under the forest canopy such as streamside management zones, woods paths, and special areas such as historical sites, cemeteries, or hunting stands.

  • A current forest inventory of each timber type.

    This inventory of all the merchantable timber (timber that is ready to be sold) on the property is broken down by unique stands, or timber types, and includes tree growth data, and will provide the current timber volumes and the projected timber volumes at the final harvest. Additionally, an inventory of the pre-merchantable timber (timber which is not yet ready to be sold) with the collection of growth data may be used in conjunction with tree growth and yield models to provide a reasonable estimate of the timber stand potential.

  • A prescription for each stand of timber.

    Each prescription includes the steps required to meet the long-term forest management goals, including estimated harvest times, harvest methods, regeneration methods, and when the timber stand should be reviewed again.

  • A schedule of forest management activities.

    When dealing with multiple stands and large acreages, a schedule of forest management activities by year and an optimized harvesting schedule to ensure the generation of income as needed to meet the landowner objectives may be included.

  • A table of projected income and expenses.

    This table breaks down the expected income and expenses from the planned forest management activities by timber type, activity, and year.

Forest Stewardship Plans & Tree Farm Plans

Forest management plans, from the very basic to the most comprehensive, can be adapted for use with one or both of the Forest Stewardship Program and/or the Tree Farm System. The Tree Farm program and the Forest Stewardship program can provide forest landowners additional benefits such as practical sustainable forestry, third-party certification, an involvement in a community of like-minded forest landowners, and recognition for excellent forest stewardship.

Looking up the trunk of a yellow poplar, new leaves can be seen growing in the canopy of this hardwood forest in the spring of 2004

Inventory & Appraisal

Taking stock of your forest assets

A forest inventory is the measurement and tally of forest products such as timber, pine straw, and lighter stumps. Most inventories are referenced by the percentage of land area on which the forest product was sampled. A 100% inventory indicates that each and every tree is measured while a 10% inventory means the trees on 10% of the land area are measured with the volume expanded mathematically to cover the entire area.

A timber inventory will further separate all merchantable trees into the raw products and the tree species desired by the mills. Examples of these products include fiber or pulpwood, chip and saw, pallet wood, sawtimber, grade lumber, poles, pilings and fence posts.

Timber Appraisal

A timber appraisal assigns current market prices to a forest inventory. Market prices from recently closed timber sales are utilized for this purpose as well as first hand knowledge of other timber sales conducted and attended by professional consulting foresters.

A forest inventory may be required for

  • Timber sales
  • Forest management plans
  • Estate planning
  • Estate valuations
  • Mortgages and liens
A stand of young longleaf pine in Cumberland County was about three years old in 2005


Planting the forest of tomorrow

Rawlings Consulting Forestry, PLLC, provides professional administration and supervision of reforestation projects. After a review of the area to be planted to assess soils, drainage, and vegetative competition, consultation is offered regarding choices in site preparation, seedling species and planting density. If applicable, a reforestation plan accompanied by a cost share funding application will be made to the appropriate agency. Site preparation contractors will be interviewed, retained, and supervised to ensure quality work in a timely manner. Tree planters will be retained and supervised to ensure tree planting is done in accordance with professional industry standards for survival and promotion of growth.

Reforestation Assistance may include

  • A review of the area to be planted to assess soils, drainage and vegetative competition
  • Consultation regarding site preparation, seedlings species and planting density
  • GPS data collection to ascertain acreage
  • GIS detailed mapping utilizing deeds, maps and other publicly available data
  • A reforestation or aforestation plan
  • An application for cost share funding, if applicable
  • Supervision of site preparation contractors
  • Supervision of tree planting contractors

Reforestation Assistance may be beneficial for

  • Private landowners
  • Municipalities
  • Absentee landowners
  • Investment firms
The three horizontal lines of blue paint on this loblolly pine marks the edge of one landowner's property

Boundary Line Maintenance

Clearly delineating the edges of your property

Boundary line maintenance involves the relocation and marking of existing property lines in a forested environment. Utilizing physical evidence such as survey monuments, irons, and witness trees, property lines are marked using survey flagging or paint. A properly marked boundary line is highly visible from a significant distance and may deter accidental trespass and timber theft.

Boundary Line Maintenance may be required for

  • Timber sales
  • Estate planning
  • Mortgages and liens
  • Hunting leases
  • Security
A stack of bales of freshly-raked longleaf pine straw sits alongside a path in Cumberland County

Pine Straw Production

Turning pine needles into profit

The production of longleaf pine straw has become a recognized income source for the fortunate landowners growing longleaf pines. Properly managed, longleaf pine straw can provide scheduled income while trees are growing and increasing in value. Rawlings Consulting Forestry, PLLC, offers professional assistance to renovate hardwood-encroached natural and planted stands of longleaf pine and the collection and sale of the longleaf straw.

Pine Straw Production assistance may include:

  • Preparation and implementation of a Forest Management Plan
  • Herbicide prescriptions
  • Supervision of herbicide, burning, and mechanical contractors
  • Establishment of foliage and soil nutrient base lines
  • Tree growth rate monitoring
  • Implementation of a fertilization program
  • Straw fall monitoring and estimations of volume
  • Supervision of the collection and sale of the pine straw

Pine Straw Production Assistance may be beneficial for:

  • Landowners growing longleaf pine.
Rows of hybrid poplars soak up contaminated groundwater at an industrial site near Greenville, North Carolina


Using trees to clean up polluted soil and water

Phytoremediation originates from the ancient Greek word phyton, meaning plant, flora, or vegetation, and the word remedy, meaning to take a corrective action. Phytoremediation is the use of plants to clean the environment, generally the soil or water, by removing the toxins or contaminants that man has purposely released or has allowed to escape.

Phytoremediation is an emerging technology that is a cost-effective and proven strategy for the clean-up and removal of many organic contaminants from both the soil and groundwater. Far cheaper than conventional methods, phytoremediation can be implemented with relatively little environmental disturbance, is effective over large or small areas, and may be designed to be aesthetically pleasing and minimally invasive. Additionally, and as compared to landfilling, phytoremediation is considered a permanent solution to the clean-up and removal of many organic contaminants including the most prevalent, petroleum hydrocarbons, that result from leaking petroleum storage tanks.

Petroleum storage tanks, both above-ground storage tanks (AST) and underground storage tanks (UST), have been prone to leaks, accidental spills, and other incidents since the initial use of petroleum products in the 1800s. Recently, scientist at leading universities as well as independent researchers have developed, documented, tested, and proven specialized phytoremediation methods for the removal of the petroleum hydrocarbons resulting from leaking tanks or accidental spills from both the petroleum-contaminated soil and the petroleum-contaminated groundwater. These methods include the use of selected plants such as common willow trees and specific types of hybridized cottonwood trees referred to as hybrid poplars or Populus deltoids. Special planting techniques are employed that are designed to promote the natural phreatophyte, or deep rooting tendencies, of these trees.

As an emerging technology, the use phytoremediation may require pre-approval from the North Carolina Division of Waste Management (NCDWM) or a comparable agency in your state. The NCDWM is the permitting agency charged with ensuring compliance with all state and federal regulations pertaining to underground storage tanks and the cleanup of UST-related petroleum contamination. If the cleanup has been mandated or if UST cleanup funds are requested, the phytoremediation may require pre-approval from the North Carolina Division of Waste Management.

Rawlings Consulting Forestry, PLLC will design and implement a phytoremediation plan which is site-specific and customized for the maximum removal of petroleum hydrocarbon contaminants from both the soil and groundwater. After the removal or repair of the petroleum contamination source, and utilizing the final comprehensive site assessment as prepared by your environmental consultant or engineer, we will create a detailed map of the ground surface area available for remediation and design a site-specific phytoremediation plan. This plan will include recommendations of the specific plant species, planting densities, and planting techniques necessary to maximize the removal of the petroleum hydrocarbon contaminants. Upon your approval of the plan, Rawlings Consulting Forestry, PLLC will implement the phytoremediation plan in a timely manner.

Phytoremediation services may include:

  • A site suitability assessment
  • A detailed map of the ground surface area available for the remediation
  • A site-specific phytoremediation plan
  • Implement of the phytoremediation plan

Phytoremediation may be beneficial for:

  • Industries
  • Municipalities
  • Military installations
  • Petroleum retail stores
  • Petroleum terminal facilities
  • Privately owned petroleum tanks
  • Homeowners with heating oil tanks
An endangered red wolf (Canis rufus) roams the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge during the spring of 2008. Photo by John and Karen Hollingsworth, US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Endangered Species

Protecting our state’s biodiversity

As of July 2019, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service lists 44 animals and 27 plants as either threatened or endangered in North Carolina. The majority of these, such as the humpback whale, american alligator, and piping plover, have little, if any effect, on forest landowners. Others, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, the dwarf wedgemussel, and the bald eagle can and do affect forest landowners in North Carolina. Depending entirely on the long-term goals and forest management objectives of the landowner, the presence of a threatened or endangered species can be viewed as either an enhancement to the forest or a catastrophe if clear-cutting was part of the forest management plan.

Rawlings Consulting Forestry, PLLC, has been privileged to assist numerous forest landowners with an endangered or threatened species located on their own forestland or residing on neighboring properties. As mandated by the Endangered Species Act and our societal obligations as stewards of the ecosystem, Rawlings Consulting Forestry, PLLC, utilizes federally-approved, species-specific recovery guidelines and procedures to assist landowners in obtaining their forest management goals.