Skip to Main Content

Reasons for a Timber Harvest

In April, Purdue Extension and the Putnam County Soil & Water Conservation District hosted a 4-session Forestry Management Workshop Series. The series featured presentations from Extension Educators, industry representatives, and woodlot owners. This week’s article will feature some of the key points that was shared during the series as it relates to timber harvest.

You may wonder why someone might want to have a timber harvest. There are about six common reasons why individuals have a timber harvest. 

Reason 1. The trees are there and if you don’t harvest, then you may lose that potential funding source. You could lose that source due to disease issues, insect pressure, stress (weather or other cause), and/or storm damage. 

Reason 2. Trees are a renewable resource. Therefore, if you harvest the tree a new one will grow. If you want a certain type of tree, then you would need to plant it, but if you don’t have a preference allow nature to take the course and a seedling might germinate that is in the seedbank underground.

Reason 3. You can use a timber harvest as a periodic source of income. Theoretically, if you properly maintain your forest, you should be able to harvest it every few years (assuming the growth rate of the trees). 

Reason 4. You would like to maintain a healthy forest. As mentioned before, trees can be impacted by disease, insects, weather, and other stressors. As you learn about the signs and symptoms of these issues, you may decide to harvest your timber when you first start seeing an issue in an effort to minimize the impact it has on the overall health of your forest. A good example of this was when individuals decided to harvest ash trees before they were impacted by emerald ash borer. 

Reason 5. Some individuals will have a timber harvest to help provide them with an income to cover unexpected financial needs they have occurred. 

Reason 6. The forest owner wants to salvage any trees that have been impacted by disease or wind before they are fully destroyed. This is similar to reason 4; however, in this case the issue has already caused destruction and you are trying to find some salvageable income from what remains.

Now that you know some of the reason an individual may decide to have a timber harvest, you may wonder what trees are worth harvesting. Recently, the top valued trees have been black walnut, white oak, red oak, black cherry, and sugar maple. However, there are a number of factors that can determine the actual price the timber is valued at. Some of those factors include the tree species, ease of access by the loggers, distance from the saw mill, fuel prices, mill inventory, quality of the tree, contract restrictions, and the need for a county permit (required in some counties). 

Not everyone wants to or needs to have a timber harvest. Some individuals prefer to maintain their forest and allow the trees to grow to their maximum potential without being harvested. Regardless of whether or not you want to have a timber harvest, it is important that you have a basic understanding of timber sells, in case you ever consider the possibility of having one. We will dive deeper into timber harvest in our next column.

To Top