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Forestry expert: Woodlands should be managed the same as cropland
Indiana Correspondent

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Woodlands should be managed with the same vigilance as cropland, and with a great deal of common sense, a forestry consultant said last week.

“Woodlands are valuable assets,” said Tom Crowe, of Wakeland Forestry. “The net income with managed woodlands is comparable with cropland.”

Crowe spoke on managing woodlands Jan. 17 during the Fort Wayne Farm Show. A well-managed woodland can provide a solid economic return with prices, quality and growth rate, he said.

“Find the best combination of species, quality, growth and grade change to maximize the rate of return,” he said. “A managed woods produces far better than an unmanaged one.”

In a managed woodland, prices can increase 4-5 percent a year. The growth rate of a typical managed woods is 2-5 percent, he said. Timber has seen real price growth and is the only commodity that has had this type of price appreciation since the 1950s, said John Seifert, Indiana’s state forester.

“If managed properly, woodlands are a good investment,” Seifert said. “There is minimal risk, low cost and high gains are possible.” While making a profit is one goal of managing woodlands, there are other reasons to monitor the woods, Seifert said.

“They can be used as a wildlife habitat, for recreational opportunities, aesthetics, and to leave a personal legacy,” he said. Landowners should consider commercial weeding of their woods to preserve their investment, Crowe said.

“Weeds are lesser trees competing with better trees,” he said. “You sell the weeds first and keep the potential. You sell the trees that don’t have potential. The tree value should not matter when selecting harvest trees. The potential or lack of potential matters most.”

Trees that should be weeded first include ones that are dead, have suffered some sort of damage or disease, and those that have poor quality and value, Crowe said.

Timber sellers should continue to use common sense, he said. “Work with professionals, such as district foresters from DNR. Work with reputable buyers and have written contracts.”

There are no set commodity prices for timber and woodland owners should understand that quality always sells, Crowe said.

“Quantity is also important,” he said. “Buyers want to know that you have enough of what they need.”

As with other crops, supply and demand is the key.

“Prices vary a lot,” he said. “The timing of what is needed locally is crucial. Competitors and markets also vary. That’s why it’s important to work with professionals.”

Published in the January 25, 2006 issue of Farm World.