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Author Topic: High-grade  (Read 6368 times)

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Offline Tarm

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High-grade
« on: January 21, 2002, 08:30:38 PM »
     A Wisconsin farmer and woodlot owner after a full and rich life passes away. His widow in need of retirement income decides to liquidate some of the farm's real estate holdings. After consultation with her sons she decides to log the woodlots and keep them in the family instead of selling them outright. Realizing that she knows next to nothing about forestry she contacts the state Department of Natural Resources for forestry assistance. The DNR forester comes out to the farm to mark the woods for a timber sale. He first marks the overmature aspen and white birch. Then he marks an improvement cutting in the northern hardwood pole-size trees and finally paints a few large hardwood trees for harvest. If cut as marked this stand would have a residual of well spaced, high quality northern hardwood trees in pole-size (5-10") small sawtimber-sized (10-14") and medium sawtimber-sized (14-18"). This stand would be well on its way to a high quality, unevenaged northern hardwood forest.
    A friend of a relative is a logger and agrees to take on the job. This logger than subcontracts the job to a cutter and pays him a per cord fee for cutting and forwarding. The cutter dissatisfied with the slow going making pulpwood from the marked pole-sized trees goes back to the sons. He asks "You know, if I cut some of the bigger trees your mother would get a lot more money." The sons, not wanting to cheat their mother out of something, agree. The cutter goes back and starts felling most of the sawtimber-sized trees. So with a slight of hand that would do a Las Vegas card shark proud a silvicultural thinning is turned into a high grade cutting. Illegal? No, there was a willing seller. Unethical? Probably. Manipulative? Absolutely! The cutter took advantage of the landowners lack of knowledge to overrule the forester's judgement.        Comments anyone?


Offline Tom

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2002, 08:45:24 PM »
The problem cojuld have been avoided if the Forester had been allowed to do the whole job.  Write the contract that was obviously missing and put the job out to bid.  The friend may still have been hired and the same cutter may have been used but the contract would have had to be honored or there could hve been recourse in the courts.

That's what Foresters do,  take care of the timber sale and make sure it is done right.
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Offline Frank_Pender

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2002, 08:47:10 PM »
In my book that would be theft.  The cutter had no agreement with the sons or mother, only the person he contracted with originally.  My recourse in the direction of the cutter and the person that contractd with the mother.   The original contractor is liable in my book, too.  Here, in Oregon, I think it is called taking and the taking is valued at tripple damages.   I also feel that it would be out and out theft, but I am not Philly edacated in rules of the law.   Now, I will wait to see how far My boots have filled up with the "stuff" I have stepped in with both size twelves. :D :D
Frank Pender

Offline swampwhiteoak

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2002, 06:19:29 AM »
Pretty common story.  Many times this is what landowners want, especially if they are selling the land.  Most buyers of agricultural land don't recognize timber value.  So land sellers will liquidate all timber assets prior to selling the land.

As for this particular situation, it all could have been avoided if the timber was sold lump sum.  This is what the majority of foresters will advocate.  

As a government forester myself, I'm only interested in marking timber for compentent people.  We are allowed to mark timber, but not adminster sales.  The old lady that doesn't know anything about timber needs a consultant to hold her hand through the process.  The farmer that has been managing his woods for 10-50 years and is more knowledgable may be able to handle it himself.  

I have some empathy for people in this type of situation, but all of this could have been avoided with a little common sense.  Ultimately stewardship of the land is the responsibility of the landowner, and if they won't take a professionals advice they deserve what they get.

Offline Ron Scott

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2002, 12:24:24 PM »
I concur with all of the above and see this situation all the time. A landowner needs the services of a professional consulting forester from start to finish, especially in the administration of the timber sale under a signed contract with the timber buyer.

There is no sense marking a timber stand to improve its quality and future values if the harvest is then left at "loggers choice".

Again, seek out the services of a professional consulting foresters for the total job!!
~Ron

Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2002, 02:24:49 PM »
I had one where it was marked, let out on bids, and logged with a contract.  Two months after completion, another logger came in and convinced the landowner to take out more trees, veneer quality.  Consultants were never brought back in.  My work went down the tubes.

In the first example, did the sons have the power of attorney to make such a decision?  In the end, their mother wasn't really cheated out of anything, they were.
Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Offline Don P

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2002, 03:41:32 PM »
Somebody understood the plan well enough to explain it to Tarm in some detail, where was this person when Moonscape logging inc. came in and changed things.
I guess I fail to see the need for a consultant all the way through, they had a perfectly good plan, they simply ignored it. :-/
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Offline Jeff

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2002, 04:08:12 PM »
The need for the consultant is pretty clear in this case. It would not have got by him, he would have had the chance to explain the situation to the landowner as an agent FOR the landowner, not as the cutter's who needed to kick up his production and profit margin by taking the future from these folks.
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Offline timberbeast

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2002, 04:38:49 PM »
In my opinion,  the logger is responsible for what "his" cutter did.  Was the additional cutting approved by the logger,  or did the cutter rip him off,  too?  In either case,  I think a talk with the logger would be my first move.  Was a contract signed between landowner and logger?  Was an additional addendum signed for the "extra"  logging?  It behooves the logger to check the cut,  even if he subcontracts it.
Word of mouth travels fast,  I think the logger should be made aware of that.  The cutter will find work,  if he's good,  but the logger can get a bad rep fast.
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Offline Tarm

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2002, 10:35:04 PM »
Thank you for all of your replies.
Tom, you are correct there was no written contract. The logger had done work for the family before and they had been satisfied. The logger however in that case DID NOT subcontract the job and only cut the trees the DNR forester had marked.
Mr. Pender, there was no theft. This job was paid by mill scale. The more wood that was cut the more money the widow received. She may have been shortchanged on the price with the changing of the product mix. More sawlogs less pulp. I however do not know one way or the other.
Swampwhiteoak, here in Wisconsin DNR foresters can mark timber for harvest but not sell it. I suggested to these people to use a consulting forester but the one thay contacted wanted a 15-20% commission. The DNR would mark for free and they already had a logger picked out. They looked at that 20% as money wasted.
The sad thing about this whole affair is that everyone is happy. The widow got more money than she thought she would and has no idea what has happened to the woods. The sons are happy that their mother is happy and relieved that their deer hunting woods didn't need to be sold outright. They also are totally ignorant that they will now inherit a gutted woodlot. The cutter is happy. By cutting larger trees and a greater volume per acre he has increased his output and raised his daily wage. The logger is happy. He got a much larger harvest and a much higher quality of wood off the job then he thought he would. Even the DNR forester must be happy. He is probably sitting in his office thinking how nice that woods must look after his thoughtful and careful marking job. At least until he drives by.
Can anything be done to prevent future cases like this or as Swampwhiteoak says "stewardship of land ultimately rest with the landowner."

Offline Frank_Pender

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2002, 06:10:22 AM »
   I guess stuff runs through my craw a bit different.   When something goes beyond the said agreement or markings in this case I just get a funy feeling inside, is all I was thinking.  It all goes to show that I encourage people to get two or three additional operators to give bids etc., before the saws show up on a job.    ;)
Frank Pender

Offline Ron Scott

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2002, 06:36:24 AM »
The 15-20% saved from not having a consultant manage the harvest became more of a loss in current and future stand values. Also the loss in price that may have been received from placing the harvest on bids.

A consultant usually gets the landowner his 15-20 % price for services through increased land and resource values as well as additional timber market values.  
~Ron

Offline swampwhiteoak

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2002, 09:20:02 AM »
Quote
Even the DNR forester must be happy. He is probably sitting in his office thinking how nice that woods must look after his thoughtful and careful marking job. At least until he drives by.


If it was me, that would be the last time I ever marked timber for that family (most of us do follow-ups if at all possible, at least here).  Why waste my time?

Anyone employed by a public agency has no business negotiating price or administering a private sale.  Recommending a contract structure would be OK.  It is no business of the state who makes out better in any particular sale.  It is in the state's interest to promote sustainable management, and if the landowner is not living up to his end of the bargain then he shouldn't get any subsidies.  If this were in Ohio, I might recommend to the auditor to cancel any tax breaks for sustainable forest use (assuming they were getting any), since they wouldn't be managing under a professional managment plan.

Any time I mark timber (which isn't real often) I send a sample contract and make sure the landowner knows what they are getting into, and what to watch for, and to call me for any advice.  Because I can't do the things the private sector can, I'm hesitant to do too much of it.  

Quote
Can anything be done to prevent future cases like this


I don't know about Wisconsin laws, but here you could pretty much cut down all your trees and put in a parking lot and there are no laws against it (but don't expect a state forester to help you out).  So, yes, ultimately responsibility rests with the landowner.  The responsibility of a forester lies in communicating to the landowner the consequences of their management decisions.  

I can't imagine any law or regulation that would prevent a high-grade.  Such things are certainly subjective to an extent and many situations would be various shades of gray.

As a side note, I find that allowing a logger to cut on shares is almost always a bad deal.  Let them fight over it in a free market.  There are other issues as well, capital gains tax v. ordinary income, to name one.

Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2002, 04:39:09 PM »
I think the consultant's fee is a little out of line.  He was looking at a sale administration, only.  There was no marking, finding the job, or putting out bids.  5% would have been a better figure, or better yet, work by the hour.

How can it be prevented?  Landowners should be set up as a management and marketing co-op.  I know, a lot of guys don't like this, but it is done through out the ag community.  Blue Diamond and Sunkist are ag co-ops.  There are several forestry co-ops in Wisconsin.

Landowners have always been ripe for the picking.  They will stay that way as long as they remain disorganized.  If organized, they can sub contract their forest mangement, logging and marketing work, and reap better benefits in their wallet as well as their woodlot.
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Offline swampwhiteoak

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2002, 07:03:14 PM »
Probably not a bad idea, Ron W.  

Offline DanG

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #15 on: January 24, 2002, 08:27:56 PM »
Ron, I gotta agree. Land owners are out of their league when they are haggling with people who do this every day. The typical, small land owner goes through this one or two times in a lifetime.
I've been beating my head against the same brick wall for years, with the farmers. They work their fingers to the bone, and take 100% of the risk, just to be told that their crops aren't worth the cost of harvest. WHY WON'T THEY ORGANIZE???  I think it is the same thing that made them farmers in the first place. Independence, that magical, intangible marvel that protects them from being told what to do with their own land, is what made them farmers. It is also what keeps them in a position of jeopardy when selling their crops, whether that crop is soybeans, or pine trees.
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Offline Frank_Pender

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2002, 09:37:13 PM »
  
And that, Dan G. is where the big boys capialize.   Knowing all too well that that level of independence is there and us it to their advantage.   I really sets in my craw and really never filters very well. >:(
Frank Pender

Offline HORSELOGGER

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2002, 07:56:55 PM »
Boy, what a subject!   I believe that the landowner has the ultimate responsibility, and also the right to do whatever he wants to do with any property he owns and pays taxes on. I am not a consulting forester and I dont play one on tv, but I try to educate myself about how what I am doing as a timber harvesting profesional affects the woods. I am a horselogger... that means that I can not play the logging game as established. It is a high volume, low margin racket. Working alone with my team in reasonably good timber I can average 1500 bft a day. In the junk I usually work, though, it can be much lower.  I started a job yesterday that you all ( yankee talk for y'all) may find interesting. I met a farmer who has some timber 6 miles from home. He found out about me via another guy I am doing some work for. He asked me to look over some woods of his and "see if there was anything in there" He said the mechanical guys were working a stand near his home place and asked if they could have a look at his timber, but he said they wear tearing up the place they were on, and he didnt want this particular woods raped , as he might want to put a house there some day. I explained to him my preferences, ( single tree selection, worst  first take out the trees that are sick, dying, degrading faster then they are growing, etc.) But I also said after i looked around, I would tell him what I thought.   After cruising the stand , which consisted of very nice cherry, red oak, some maple, and white oak I gave him the scenarios. I could go in, clean up the place, basically weed the garden, and leave all the high grade to get bigger and better, and prune out the junk, but I told him it would most likely not cash flow for him. ( I do this sort of work on an hourly basis with my team) I would help him move the logs , but he would probably not make enough off of them to profit after paying me.  The opposite end of the spectrum was  to take the junk, and some of the high grade to, which would cash flow.  This is what he said " I dont want to give you any money!"  Then he said he had another little patch, maybe I could start there and see how him and I get along.  He drove me to the end of a dead end road and showed me a 2 acre timber between two farm fields and said" I dont care what you do in there , I want to start farming it. Make me an offer on the Timber. "  Long story short, He just bought this farm last year and it had these 2 timbers on it. He is concerned about how it will look after the harvest , but doesnt want to educate himself on the ways to sustainably manage and long term profit from these stands. My enthusiasm for forestry fell on deaf ears. Bottom line: I will give a land owner all the options, I will give a " this is what I would do" speech, I encourage them to read and educate themselves and make an informed decision, but I do not make the decision for them! I started the smaller timber yesterday. From that 2 acres I will harvest 6 of the biggest , nicest northern red oaks that I have ever seen, some cherry logs that made the horseys say ugh, some white ash, hackberry, red elm and white oak. I wrote a purchase contract to buy any thing that would make a merchantable saw log , any species. It is the worst way to treat a woods that I can think of, but he is going to clear it all with a dozer most likely when I am done. Here is where I am going with all this. Even though I am taking all the saw logs, I still do it with my horses. I still practice directional felling techniques. In other words, I still will do it my way and yesterday afternoon, a couple came over to see what horselogging looked like . They are some potential customers. When they were leaving I asked the wife if she had any questions. She looked back at the skid trail I had been working all day and said" we should have had this done years ago!" So even in the midst of basically devastating alittle timber stand, my commitment to low impact harvesting tools got me more work. Most of the people I deal with dont want to know how to make money ten or twenty years from now, they want to get the highest bid today. I keep trying, but all this post was a long way around the horn to say this.: I dont think the average land owner has the passion for forestry that those of us on this board share. It is easy to talk about stupid or careless land owners getting what they deserve, but if we dont try to educate our customers, we are just as much at fault. After they are informed, it is their choice, and I will work for them with a clear heart.  Just my opinion.  Mike
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Offline Tom

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2002, 08:16:40 PM »
I enjoyed the post, Mike.  I agree that it is the owners land to do with as he sees fit.  Perhaps Forester is a title that is larger than a college degree.  It's not every day you run into someone "in the business" that has the "woods" at heart even though they are not as uncommon as it may seem.  A consulting forester is educated to "look down the road" and his reputation is based on his ability to make the harvest profitable for the land owner.  

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Offline Tillaway

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2002, 09:22:55 PM »
Good post Mike... The landowners here are the same way.  The problem is here, at least, once a landowner realizes just what a hassle it is to get the state go ahead on a timber harvest; they want every good stick cut.  If you manage for the next generation here, chances are real good that you won't be able to harvest it.  Few people are willing to leave that much money sitting on the table.  This includes some of the Foresters in charge of managing the lands here. >:( :(
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Re: High-grade
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2002, 03:33:07 AM »
My personal feeling on this is that it is the landowner's responsibility to take care of their woods.  I've cut timber for both ends of the spectrum.  Some will follow the advice given them by foresters or responsible loggers; some are after short term gains.  

It gets my goat that some loggers get the blame for what short sighted greedy landowners want done...i.e. high grading, clear cutting for $$$ with no plan on what to do afterwards, etc...

I think if some folks treated their timber holdings like they do their retirement/savings funds they would better understand how to manage their woods.  I've had the pleasure to do some work for a 74 year old man that has been logging the same 300 acres off & on all his life.  He & his father supported their family through tough times logging these woods & there is still plenty of timber.  He is no professional forester but his woods are prime time nice.  These days he doesn't support himself totally off this but makes enough to take care of the place & supplement his retirement.  His heirs could care less and I suspect when they come into the land that the timber will be sold to the highest bidder.

Another fellow two places over inherited a very nice tract of hardwood which needed thinned.  Plan was to thin about 100 tons of mixed grade hardwood.  He got his first couple checks did some math & wanted to cut more, more, more.  I advised against it several times, his reply  Ended up cutting 300 tons & the place looks like crap & probaly will for another 100 years.  At the time I needed the work badly, BUT I will never do that again.  That was the landowners greed working, not the forester's, not the logger's, not big business' , not anybody elses.

Tom

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2002, 03:58:28 PM »
I see what comes into the mill via forester markings.  A lot of these stands are being high graded.  14-16" red oak, poplar, ash, and cherry.  Stuff I used to leave stand.  Very little in the way of low grade timber.  Its being left in the wood lot as residual stocking.  Its one of the reasons that red maple is now the number one species in my state.  

I've been on both sides of the spectrum as well.  I've been both a consultant and a procurement forester.  I have marked a few stands with diameter limit cuts.  But, only if it has been done in the past and it is a 2 age stand.  .

For the most part, I marked stands by leaving crop trees, very similar to what Horselogger was talking about.  If the landowner wants more marked, then he gets someone else to do it.  I have no problems with clearcuts, if handled responsibly.

Landowners have a right to do on their property for whatever their land is zoned for.  There is more and more pressure at the local level to zone acceptable forestry applications.  Most of them aren't written very well and lend to high grading.  In some areas, clear cutting is prohibited.  We recently had a right-to-log ruling placed in our state.  It busted the locals that wanted no cutting.

Landowner education is a double-edged sword.  In the education process, we always talk about how some guys will cheat them, or cut what should be left, etc.  I'm starting to get the feeling that all they are hearing is you can't trust loggers.  

Organizing landowners is an effective way to both manage timber and educate landowners.  The Tree Farm system is a shining example.  The problem is reaching the landowner.  The ways that have been tried in the past, just don't work anymore.

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Offline swampwhiteoak

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2002, 09:12:48 AM »

Offline Bud Man

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #23 on: January 31, 2002, 03:17:33 AM »
Great posts everybody!!!     The DNR forester poorly communicated to the widow or vice versa???(what and why)  Surely the widow must have had a dollar amount need?? or a worry that she conveyed.    Contracts are a must !!    Mike--keep on doing what your doing -with the horses and the communicating.  Sometimes we all need to re-invent the wheel and explain our actions and thoughts. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes!!!    Tarm , a grassroats article with the local paper (there always looking for filler) with a picture or two showing what happened and an explanation of what should have happened might educate a few people and maybe get the logger run out of town. Maybe the title should be :"There are more than four legged wolves in Wisconsin"
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Offline Don P

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #24 on: January 31, 2002, 05:45:26 AM »
There's no need for 'tude in them :), but forestry articles for the paper is a great idea. I read the local ag section even though almost nothing really applies to me. Everybody I know has a bunch of trees. Is there a stockpile of such articles to turn my local editor on to?
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Offline Bud Man

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #25 on: January 31, 2002, 06:05:36 AM »
Don P---No "TUDE" intended==I addressed both sides.  My entire post was about communication on all parts.  BUT I do think that the logger in this case was a shiftless, lazy, scheming,-,-,-,etc. and his type cast a long shadow on loggers.
The groves were God's first temples.. " A Forest Hymn"  by.. William Cullen Bryant

Offline Frank_Pender

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Re: High-grade
« Reply #26 on: January 31, 2002, 07:45:23 AM »
  Horselogger  (Mike)

  I face this issue at least once a week as a Master Woodlands Manage through the state extension service.  I try to outline all of the possible options available and Invariably the final question comes down to,  "What will the final dollar be for me?"  I have turned jobs down simply because of what the people want the land left looking like or do not care what it looks like.  Thank you for taking the time to share your post and too, trying to "edacate" the land owners you deal with.
Frank Pender


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