- Professional foresters can help you plan your timber harvest and sale.
- Private and public foresters provide different services.
- Consider both price and quality when selecting a logger.
- Create a contract and monitor the sale to resolve issues that may arise.
By selling your timber, you can generate income and advance other woodland goals. For example, harvesting might help you improve forest health and wildlife habitat or build recreational trails.
Most landowners will only sell timber once or twice in their lifetime. So it’s unlikely they are experts in marketing or harvesting timber, including applying these Minnesota guidelines for harvesting forests.
On this page, you will find guidance and resources to help you get the best timber offer, meet woodland goals and make informed decisions throughout the timber sales process.
Getting help from a forester
Before selling your lumber, work with a professional forester. They are your best resource for making sure your bases are covered from start to finish. Professional foresters can measure trees, estimate their value, and make sure sale boundaries are clearly marked to the final scale.
When professional foresters conduct timber sales, they strive to:
- Renew forest stands with improved health and vigor.
- Ensure you sell your timber for a fair price.
- Protect water quality and rare features.
- Maintain or improve wildlife habitat.
You can find public and private professional foresters on our map of approved Minnesota Woodland Stewardship Plan preparers. Before choosing one, it’s a good idea to check their references.
Consulting foresters are self-employed professional foresters who can, for a fee, provide a wide range of services. They can:
- Harvest timber.
- Assist with marketing.
- Prepare contracts.
- Administer timber sales.
- Develop Woodland Stewardship Plans.
Fees are often based on a percentage of the sale. You can find some private consultants through the Minnesota Association of Consulting Foresters.
In addition, some forest products companies provide professional forest management and marketing advice to woodland owners.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Forestry offers timber sale assistance for private landowners, but capacity is limited. Some Soil and Water Conservation Districts also provide forest management advice.
How DNR foresters can help
DNR foresters can:
- Provide a Woodland Stewardship Plan.
- Assist with the timber sale process.
- Advise you on how to establish trees on the site after the sale.
For a fee (a certain percentage of the sale's actual price), a DNR forester can:
- Conduct a timber appraisal.
- Denote trees for harvest.
- Estimate timber volumes.
- Assist with the bid solicitation process and preparing a timber sale contract (staff availability permitting).
- Measure and record the timber harvested to ensure landowners receive the full value.
There’s an additional fee of $2 per 1,000 board feet or $50 per scaling visit.
What DNR foresters can’t do
When selling timber, there are advantages to working with a private consultant instead of a DNR forester. Specifically, DNR foresters can’t help administer or supervise a sale for private landowners.
But DNR foresters are always a good resource for general dos and don’ts. For example, they can give you advice on sales, forest management and contract provisions.
Tips for the sale
Always begin with a forest management plan. A plan prepared by a professional in consultation with landowners is critical to making a sale that’s good for both the land and your pocketbook.
What to include
The plan should be geared toward meeting your goals, and include information about important items such as:
- What the land looks like today.
- What’s envisioned for the future.
- Managing and protecting forest health, wildlife habitat, water quality and rare features.
Woodland Stewardship Plans
The highly recommended gold standard would be a Woodland Stewardship Plan that covers your entire forested property. Developing a stewardship plan is a worthwhile investment that will pay dividends for many years to come.
How plans help with timber appraisals
Even if you decide against preparing a stewardship plan for your whole property, it’s critical to at least have a plan for the sale area as part of the pre-sale appraisal process. Timber harvests are complex interactions involving forest ecology, markets and other factors.
A harvest can have short- and long-term consequences for the land and landowner. Timber appraisals detail all aspects of a harvest for a specific area. They include:
- An estimate of how much timber will be sold and its value.
- How you will harvest timber.
- How you will get young trees back onto the land after the timber sale.
Unless you’re selling a very small amount or value of timber, soliciting bids is a good way to get the best offer for your timber. With this approach, you offer the timber to potential buyers and competition among them determines the price.
It’s important to properly set up and promote the bids. When soliciting bids, include all the information potential buyers need to assess the timber you’re selling and any items that’ll impact harvesting costs.
Price is an important consideration when determining who will do the harvesting. But it’s not the only one. It’s also important to consider the quality of the logging job. A reputable logger with a good track record is best.
To assess if a logger can do a quality job, you can:
- Use a private consulting forester’s recommendation.
- Get references from other landowners.
- Require proof of membership in the Minnesota Logger Education Program (MLEP).
Some loggers are certified through Minnesota's Master Logger program. By doing so, they voluntarily participate in a third-party audit that certifies their business and harvest practices.
A signed written contract between the landowner and the logger or buyer is critical. A well-written contract:
- Protects both parties.
- Sets the rules, such as what, how and when to harvest.
- Incorporates relevant provisions from the appraisal such as forest management guidelines, landing areas and road locations.
View a sample Minnesota timber harvest contract (PDF). This sample document is for educational use only. Use it as a starting point for your own contract, but we encourage you to contact an attorney for help designing a timber sale contract that meets your specific needs.
No matter how carefully you write the timber sale contract, there is no substitute for inspecting the harvest operation. A pre-harvest walk with the logger is invaluable.
Once harvest begins, the landowner or forester should frequently visit the area to make sure the harvest is proceeding according to the contract’s terms and discuss issues that may arise. Unless there’s a flagrant contract violation, a simple discussion with the logger in charge of the operation usually resolves issues or clears up misunderstandings.
Caution: Don’t endanger anyone by getting too close to an active operation. Always make sure operators on an active timber harvest sale see all visitors.
Reviewed in 2019