I live in a fairly rural area outside of Seattle. Where I live most of the lots are zoned 5 to 10 acres. Occasionally I will see someone has sold the lumber off their site, leaving this huge bald patch.
These bald patches are a big eyesore, but I also think they have effectively diminished the value of their property. At least it would to me. Why would I buy a 5 acre lot that has all the tree demolished on it? I moved out here for the trees not to see a 5 acre bald spot!
But the question I had was this—really how much money is someone truly collecting by harvesting the trees off that 5 acre lot? I guess if you truly need the money it might make sense but the loss of value on the property has to offset it wouldn’t it? So does anyone out there have the straight dope on the value of the trees?
I’d think it would increase the value of that acreage if they then deliberately planted saplings in a pattern that would prevent soil erosion and encourage healthier trees, while at the same time allowing for a building to be planned on the same spot in better proximity to the trees.
I’ve heard (but have no cite at hand for) that new growth is better for the carbon cycle than old growth as saplings need more CO2 at that point in the growing cycle since they have less stored energy. Offsetting that, though, is the emissions from the required logging/planting equipment.
Well, young small growing trees are taking in and fixing more carbon than mature trees, yes. But at best they’re only going to take in as much carbon as was stored in the old trees to begin with. So unless you’re burying the old trees somehow so they’ll never rot, you’re releasing at least as much carbon by cutting the old trees down than you’ll ever get back by regrowing them.
Like assembling the old trees into some sort of structure and then living in it for decades to centuries? In this country at least, older trees are generally very valuable as lumber, so only the smaller younger stuff gets turned into firewood or disposable paper products that result in the carbon being recycled sooner rather than later.
As for the OP, the value of rural land hugely depends on the ability to develop it, which includes road access and the ability to get water and sewer (or a well and septic), as well as zoning issues. Rural land that isn’t readily developable can be worth very little, even if it’s spitting distance from a town with a very strong real estate market. So it could be that getting some cash from the timber on the lot every couple of decades is all the owner really expects out of it, especially if it was bought for a pittance a long time ago.
Of course one possibility is that the land is owned by a timber company. They once owned almost all the private land in rural western Washington and some of them make more money selling land than they do selling wood these days. A lot of the subdivisions and other development in the exurbs are being carved out of timber land, so it shouldn’t be terribly surprising if the adjoining non-developed land is still being used for timber.
How long are the owners planning on holding the land?
If the current owners have no plans to sell off the land itself, then logging it off gets you caash now, for a crop that will eventually regrow.
It’s kind of like a house value. If you don’t plan on selling it, then it really doesn’t matter what the market value is.
What you get for your trees depends on a lot of things. Prices for timber in the west side of Washington are generally spoken of in “price per thousand board feet” ($/mbf). A lumber mill will set a purchase price per thousand depending on the species, sort, and grade.
Being on the west side I’m assuming you have Douglas-Fir 2nd growth. A well stocked stand of Doug can get up to 90 mbf (thousand board feet) per acre, but we will assume your stand has 50 mbf per acre. We will also have to assume 10 acres, and a price at the mill delivered of $500.00 per mbf.
That gets you a total of 500 mbf at a value of $250,000, but that’s a delivered price.
Now subtract out (all prices are assumed, I don’t live in your area): Felling and Bucking (55.00 per mbf), Yarding from the woods to the landing (140.00 per mbf), Sort and Load (25.00 per mbf), Hauling - distance to mill is important (70.00 per mbf). I also included 20.00 per mbf for road reconstruction for driveway improvements.
Total logging costs 310.00 per mbf, + 10% Profit & Risk (31.00 per mbf) for the logging company = 341.00 per mbf cost
Sales Value = $159.00 per mbf or a total value of $79,000.00 in your pocket.
Now you have to pay taxes on this, but it is a pretty nice payday. I’m not a tax professional but there are also a lot of tax incentives for your reforestation costs. I believe up to 10,000 amortized out over 5 years. So maybe you can lower your tax burden by buying a 4-wheeler to help in planting the next crop.
Also, you have to realize that with the reduction of big tree logging there is not much equipment or many lumber mills that can still handle large trees. If your average diameter is starting to exceed 36” you might be growing yourself out of your market and may begin to lose value.
In the long run, you can get more money out of a piece of forest by gradually logging a few trees here and there, and letting the rest grow, than by clear-cutting. Clear-cutting gives you the immediate payoff, though. And that’s only if the logging itself is your only source of profit, whereas these folks probably have plans for the cleared land, too.
65% of our state is forested land, with a good number of landowners who harvest the timber. Management companies exist who map out harvesting and growing strategies for the landowner. Owners of large tracts will often clear-cut a certain percentage each year. Once all of the land has been cut, the part they started on first is ready to cut again.
sitchensis thanks–that was the info I was seeking. The ones I have seen do not appear to be replanted. This area is rural but not ‘rural’ in that it is developed but the development is 5-10 acre tracts. I own a 5 acre lot nearby that is heavily wooded but has homes on the adjacent 5 acre tracts. My current house is on a grandfathered in subdivision but we are still on 2 1/2 acre tracts. So it is more suburban rural if that makes any sense.
I am not talking about the land owned by timber companies, this is all private ownership. I know that the timber companies typically have a replant and have a cut and replant strategy. These areas I am talking about often there is an old home on the land so my sense is that the parents have passed on and the children are looking at getting as much cash out as possible.
5 wooded acres here would run about $100-125k, so I could see where someone might look at logging it and getting $80k out of the logs and still own the property. Or alternatively I suppose they could sell the property but I am not sure what the value of a de-treed property . Someone upthread mentioned that having trees increases your sellability but not the value. I suppose that could be true, it wouldn’t for me but I am not the measure!
But thanks everyone for your comments/thoughts. I have always been curious as it is quite shocking to come up on one of these denuded acreage areas after you get used to seeing all the trees.
sitchensis and Quercus, I’ll take it as a given that you both probably know more about this than I do. I just know that that’s the way my grandfather did it, and he made a lot more over the years than he would have with a lump sum. Presumably he did all the appropriate research on his little patch of woods, and decided that was the best route for his situation. I probably shouldn’t have leapt the generalization.
As an aside, sitchensis, what genus are you? I can find at least four different plant genera (none of them particularly related to Quercus) with a species by that name.
Wanted to add that that all landowners (big and small) that log have to abide by the statutes and regulations of the state generally outlined in the state’s Best Management Practices (BMPs). The small landowners you mentioned still have to meet a certain restocking level for the site. The wet side of WA can usually meet the restocking requirements without planting, using only natural regeneration. The larger timber companies will usually replant to get a better species composition and to gain a year or two on the growth cycle.
I’m sure your grandfather did the right thing for himself. That’s the fun thing about owning a woodlot, making your own decisions about your land. A woodlot as an investment is like family jewelry, it’s a tangible thing with a value, but also a use beyond its monetary value.
As a pure investment, one person might think the best decision would be to liquidate, and invest the proceeds on the stock market. The next may want to put it in the mattress and wait for a rainy day. A third may find the use of the woodlot more important that the value, a hunter may log for some profit but mostly to support deer habitat, a birder selectively cuts for bird species. A lover of nature could log to promote diversity or remove disease. I’m sure your grandfather’s idea of value was reflected in his management choices.
*Picea sitchensis *(Sitka Spruce) a soft wood, I assumed Quercus (Oak) a hard wood. I also assumed that Quercus, while knowledgeable, was on the other side of the fence from me when it comes to logging. Hence the good/bad twin mirror image comment.