Timber Harvest

Harvesting the timber is an option to be considered by the forest land owner. A timber harvest is more than cutting trees. With proper planning, a harvest can enhance your forest, wildlife, neighborhood, environment, and current and future income.

Listed below are the steps involved in a proper timber harvest. For more information on each of these steps see the "How Can You Conduct a Good Timber Harvest?" section of the Branching Out - Fall 1998 newsletter.

  1. Develop a management plan

  2. Hire a consulting forester

  3. Check mortgage restrictions

  4. Mark property & harvest boundaries

  5. Protect wildlife habitat

  6. Consider tax implications

  7. Evaluate the timber market

  8. Solicit bids

  9. Choose a logger

  10. Sign a written contract

  11. Observe regulations

  12. Restore disturbed areas

How can you know that a timber harvest has been completed properly? The indication of a well conducted harvest are presented below:

  • Minimum residual damage - no widespread trunk damage to the remaining trees scattered throughout the property

  • No deep soil ruts caused by logging equipment

  • Low stumps

  • Low Slash - the limbs, tree tops and other small wood left after a harvest is called "slash"

  • No waste

Timber harvesting can have financial benefits to the land owner and can be done without without harming the environment. A controlled study conducted in southern Frederick County (Stronghold at Sugarloaf Mountain) has demonstrated that Maryland’s Best Management Practices (BMPs) for timber harvest operations can have no long term significant impacts on stream benthos, temperature, and suspended sediment if forestry BMPs are implemented.

FCFCDB and timber harvest reviews

The Frederick County Forest Conservancy District Board does not have any regulatory authority, but it does have a duty to "Receive and pass on proposed work plans for cutting forest lands." If a landowner or landowner's agent submits a plan, the Board is obligated to review it, to advise the landowner whether it approves the plan, and in appropriate cases to make additional recommendations. Generally, to review a plan, the Board members must visit the site of the proposed timber harvest, as they are authorized by the law to do so. The Broad cannot review a plan if the property is not available for inspection.

FCFB board members meet with landowner during a harvest inpection

The Frederick County Zoning Ordinance provides that in the Resource Conservation District "Commercial logging and timber harvesting operations ... shall be subjected to ... review and approval of a timber harvest plan by the Frederick County Forestry Conservancy District Board." In practice, the Frederick County Department of Public Works will not issue a grading permit for a commercial timber harvest in the Resource Conservation District until the Zoning Administrator is informed that the landowner has a timber harvest plan approved by the Board. Deviation from the plan may be a basis for revocation of the permit and possible fines. In other words, the Board does not require timber harvest plans, but the County may, in which case the Board reviews them as a service to landowners and the County. For more information on the County's requirements, interested persons should consult the Frederick County Zoning Administration or the Frederick County Department of Public Works .

Plan Requirements: For the Board to carry out its duty to review timber harvests, certain information is essential. To this end the Board requires that all timber harvests plans include the following elements:

  • Landowner name, address, and telephone number, statement of landowner's objectives

  • Statement approving the plan signed by the landowner

  • Name, address, and telephone number of person preparing plan

  • Accurate map with north arrow locating the 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 topological map and coordinates may also be helpful in finding and examining the property

  • Accurate map location 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, shelterwood, etc.). Pre- and post basal area area should be indicated.

  • Trees to be harvested should 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.

  • Other desirable on-site items include clearly marked boundaries, access roads, landing area, and stream or wetland buffer areas.

FCMA Property: Many forest landowners participanting the Forest Conservation and Management Agreement program. The FCMA constitutes a legal contract with the state of Maryland in which the landowner has agreed to follow the management recommendations in the plan during the term of the contract. Specifically, if as a landowner you sell timber from your forestland contrary to the provisions of your FCMA, this will result in decertification, with attendant penalties and back taxes.

In addition, if your property is in the Resource Conservation Zone, the county requires that a timber harvest plan be required and approved by this Board before it will grant a logging permit. The Board will not approve any timber harvest plan that does not conform to the recommendations of your management plan.

The Board realizes that there may may be legitimate reasons to revise a management plan, such as a natural disaster or changes in a landowner's situation or goals. In such cases the landowner should contact the Maryland Forest Service Project Manager for Frederick County, Michael Kay, at 301 473-8417, to discuss the situation before signing a contract or otherwise agreeing to sell timber.

Landowner cautions: The Board believes that it is generally in the best interests of any forest landowner to have an overall forest management plan prepared by a licensed professional forester. The Board also urges landowners to consult a licensed forester and have a timber harvest prepared and, if necessary, approved in advance before signing and contract for sale f timber or submitting it for bids.

The Board will review a timber harvest plan for land in the Agricultural zoning district upon the owner's written request, but only if the owner has not signed a contract to sell the timber.

The Board does not review timber harvest plans prepared in anticipation of a change in land use, whether for development of agriculture.

The Board reminds all landowners that it is the landowner's ultimate responsibility to ensure that a timber harvest plan is prepared and approved when necessary, that the logger follows the plan, that all necessary permits are secured, and that their conditions are carried out.

For more information, consult Michael Kay, Frederick Project Manager, Maryland Forest Service, 8602 Gambrill Park Road, Frederick , MD 20702 (phone 301 473-8417; e-mail mkay@dnr.state.md.us).

Other income possibilities

Many landowners interested in deriving some income from their forest to offset the costs of ownership. The following topics are some you might consider.

  • Christmas tree production

  • Forest products - fuel wood, custom saw milling, wood kiln processing

  • Game bird propagation

  • Mushroom production

  • Recreational access - hunting, fishing,bird watching, and cross county skiing

  • Crafts materials - vines, pine cones, etc

For details download the pdf file entitled Alternative Incomes Enterprises - Resource List and visit the Natural Resource Income Opportunities Web page.