How to develop a timber harvest plan

If you are conducting a logging operation you need to have a permit before you begin.

If you are conducting a logging operation on your property where at least 2,000 square feet of soil is being disturbed then you are required by law to have a logging permit displayed on site before the harvest begins. As the owner of the property you are legally responsible for acquiring that permit, and you will be responsible for any fines or law enforcement actions that are levied as a result of these infractions. Obtaining a logging permit in Frederick County is a matter of visiting the Public Works Department on 118 North Market Street, Frederick, MD 21701 and requesting the necessary forms. These forms should be filled out and returned to the Public Works Department with the payment. It should be noted that there are two potential applications, one for a Standard Plan where the limits of disturbance fall below a certain minimum (<15,000 sq feet and 500CY), the logging roads and skid trails are on a 15% or less gradient, and no logging is occurring in wetlands are within the designated stream buffer. Another requirement for a standard plan is that no streams are crossed in the course of the operation. If any of these requirements is not met then you need to posses a Non-Standard “Custom” Plan prepared by a Registered Professional Forester.

Other requirements that may be necessary to obtain a logging permit in Frederick County come into effect if certain conditions are met in relation to the logging site. The first condition relates to the Zoning Designation of the land. If your property is located in a Resource Conservation Zone then you need to prepare and submit a logging plan to the Frederick County Forestry Board for approval. The Forestry Board accepts plans throughout the month and reviews them at regularly scheduled meetings held on the second Monday of the month. Following these meetings the board makes plans to conduct a site visit to review the marking of timber to make sure that it adheres to the intent of the plan. The Board will send a letter to the applicant stating whether or not their plan has been approved. You can contact the Forestry Board for an informational sheet on what is necessary in the plan.

Another special requirement is whether or not the logging operation is to be conducted in a stream buffer and if a stream will be crossed in the process of extracting logs from the site. If these conditions are met then the applicant must acquire a Buffer Management Plan from a MD Licensed Professional Forester and may need a special Stream Crossing Permit issued by the MD Department of the Environment or the Army Cops of Engineers.

Another special circumstance comes into play if you are logging in anticipation of developing or subdividing your property. If this is the case you must follow the regulations that pertain to Land Clearing, Construction and Development and the provisions in Frederick County’s Forest Retention Ordinance. On the Standard Plan form there is a section where an applicant is required to sign a Declaration of Intent stating that their forestry operation is not a prelude to development and that they understand that they will be subject to the Forest Retention Ordinance (FRO) if they are logging in anticipation of developing the property.

Finally, if the proposed logging operation is located in any area where a special easement is in place such as a Forest Retention Area, the applicant must follow the requirements for logging as specified in that easement. In most cases this entails having a MD Registered Professional Forester prepare a Forest Stewardship Plan for the site, mark the timber, and supervise the logging operation.

When you apply for a permit, the Public Works Department sends the application to the Soil Conservation Service where this agency reviews the plan for sediment and erosion control issues. Once the Soil Conservation Service finishes their review, they send it to the Zoning Administration who reviews the plan looking at whether or not the activity is allowed in the particular zoning designation. The Zoning Division also reviews the application making sure that it contains an approved Logging Plan should the site fall within a Resource Conservation Area or be involved in another easement program. Once the Zoning administration signs off on the application it is sent back to the Public Works Department that make a final review of the application then they submit the permit to the applicant. It is the Public Works Department’s responsibility to inspect the site during the operation and they have the authority to suspend operations and levy fines depending on the circumstances.

The logging permit process can be very complicated especially for those who have limited experience in acquiring permits or conducting logging operations. For these reasons it is a good idea to communicate with the logging contractor, sawmill, or forester that you wish for them to acquire the logging permit; and, state in a written contract that you will not permit the operator to begin their logging activity until they are in possession of a permit. Another option is to employ a Consulting Forester to administer the sale. Most consultants will acquire the logging permit for the landowner as part of their services.

Ready for market

The Board has been reviewing timber harvest plans since 1996. Experience has taught us that certain information is essential for the Board to carry out its duties. In order to speed up the process for the benefit of all concerned, the Board has decided to require that all timber harvest plans include the following elements.

  • Landowner name, address, and telephone number.
  • Statement of landowner's objectives.
  • Name, address, and telephone number of person preparing plan.
  • Accurate map with north arrow locating property, showing access point in relation to roads with distance from nearby junction, street numbers if any at or near property. Roadside flagging often helps. Using a USGS topo map may also be helpful in finding and examining the property.
  • Accurate map locating property boundaries, harvest area and number of acres, location of access roads, loading decks, and haul roads, creeks or wetlands if any and related buffer zones. (The two maps may be combined.)
  • The plan must include a statement as to the type of harvest (individual selection, group selection, shelter wood, etc.). Pre- and post-harvest basal area should be indicated.
  • Trees to be harvested must be marked at approximately eye level and at the base, preferably all on the same side. If trees in the harvest area have been marked with more than one color, the plan must indicate which color has been used for the plan being reviewed. The tree marking requirement can be waived based on extenuating circumstances
  • Other on-site items that would help speed the process include clearly marked boundaries, access roads, landing area, and stream or wetland buffer areas.

Remember, we're in this together. The easier it is for us to examine the property and determine just what the plan calls for, the more likely you are to get that approval letter the first time around.

For more information, consult Michael Kay, Frederick Project Manager, Maryland Forest Service, 8602 Gambrill Park Road, Frederick, MD 21702 (301-473-8417).