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Why Forest Management?
Article #137, October 2008
By Bill Cook

     Ever thought about a timber sale on your property and then decided against it? Or, maybe you remain unsure for any number of reasons? Perhaps, you harbor a fear of getting ripped-off or are concerned about the potential for a post-harvest wasteland?

     You're not alone and the concerns are legitimate.

     In reality, most loggers are good businessmen that do a good job in the forest. How can you be more certain of selling your trees to one of the quality loggers, versus one of the few bad ones?

     First, it helps to recognize your forest as a high-value asset, and not just in terms of dollars. Chances are that you don't own your forest just for revenue generation. Most forest owners assign other reasons to the top of their priority list. Connecting those values to timber harvesting is a leap for many people. But in most cases, timber harvest and other forestry practices will enhance almost all other values, as well as provide more income than you might first think.

     The hard part is putting your values in concrete terms so that you better understand them. No small task, but armed with that knowledge, the next hurdle is learning how to maximize those values. That hurdle can be jumped with more insight into forest ecology, forest management, and the conditions of your specific piece of forest. This is where the services of a professional forester come in handy. A forester is not the same as a logger. The two provide different services, even though those services are related to each other.

     Now, lots of good information can be obtained from the Internet, public agencies, and forest organizations. Yet, little can replace a conversation with a forester while walking through your woods. That's where information gets specific and personal.

     In a way, it's sort of like managing retirement accounts. Most of us are not experts about stock markets, investment corporations, mutual funds, and the like. So, we talk to folks who are experts. We get to know a person and they get to know us and what we expect. The relationship between you and a professional forester is much the same.

     You don't want to pay the money for a forester? Go back and re-read the fourth paragraph. How much do you value your forest? Why in the world wouldn't you hire a forester for something as valuable as a woodland? Most people discover that managing a woodland opens up a whole new world of complexity, options, and possibilities that they never knew was there. It's exciting. It's a great investment, in all ways.

     Most people have only an inkling as to how much money their trees might be worth. And frankly, assessing the dollar value can be a challenge and it's highly variable. Furthermore, once the non-monetary values are fully considered, the value of professional forestry advice might rank right in there with investment counseling or medical services.

     It's worth it in so many ways.

     Besides, with the professional services of a forester whom you like and trust, you may actually see more net income than if you hadn't used a forester. Additionally, and more important to many people, is the peace of mind in knowing that the other forest values are not only protected, but are actually enhanced. You end up with more money and a better forest!

     Properly managing a forest can reap tremendous personal rewards, as well as leaving a positive legacy for the next generation and contributing to a more sustainable society. It's one of the few situations with winners all around.

     Where to begin? Deciding to learn more about your woodland and working with a professional starts the process. It will take some time. Don't expect immediate gratification. Shop around. Speak with your friends and neighbors. Are they doing anything? Visit the Michigan Forest Pathways website for some contact ideas [http://MIforestpathways.net]. See how the County Conservation District and MSU Extension offices might be able to help. They often have information about local consulting and industry foresters. Join the Michigan Forest Association or check into the Michigan Tree Farm Program. Both outfits are groups of woodland owners who wrestle with some of the same issues that you do.

     The more you learn, the more exciting the adventure becomes. To paraphrase an old marketing campaign; "An unmanaged forest - such a terrible thing to waste". If you're fortunate enough to own a piece of our great Michigan forest, make the most of it. Few people have been disappointed.

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Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at cookwi@msu.edu or 906-786-1575.

Prepared by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005 J Road, Escanaba, MI  49829
906-786-1575 (voice),  906-786-9370 (fax),  e-mail:  cookwi@msu.edu

Use / reprinting of these articles is encouraged. Please notify Bill Cook.
By-line should read "Bill Cook, MSU Extension" Please use the article trailer whenever possible.

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