What is Preharvest Planning?
Forest preharvest planning (FPP) is a process that identifies and summarizes information about a tract of land from which timber will soon be harvested. This information may include environmental regulations; attributes related to the site such as topography, soils, and water resources; and details of the timber such as size, species, and accessibility.
The purpose of preharvest planning is to design a harvest operation that meets landowner objectives while addressing the environmental and operational characteristics of a forest harvest site.
Where Does A Landowner Start?
Deciding when and how to have your timber harvested can often be intimidating and confusing. As a forest landowner you carry the responsibility of promoting the future sustainability and productivity of North Carolina's forests, since private ownership accounts for nearly 75% of the state's forestland. Fortunately, assistance is available from your local North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS) office.
Professional Forestry Assistance
In addition to publicly-available forestry assistance, you can benefit by obtaining the services of a private consulting forester. In North Carolina, foresters are required to pass an exam, maintain continuing education, and be registered with the State of North Carolina. Like any group of professionals, foresters have a wide variety of skills, education and experience. As you talk with potential consultants, match the forester's experience and expertise with the goals and objectives you have in mind for your land:
- Get an understanding of their character, reliability, sense of stewardship, and willingness to understand and meet your goals.
- Request and follow up on references before signing any contract or agreement.
- The information they provide should include names and phone numbers of other landowners they have assisted.
Ownership & Boundary Issues
Before planning or harvesting can occur, it is important to determine the boundary lines of the property and timber sale area(s). If more than one landowner is involved, all must agree to the sale arrangements.
- Once the boundaries are determined, they should be clearly marked and maintained.
- Before beginning a timber sale, be certain that all parties are aware of the boundaries.
- While the timber sale is being worked, frequently walk the property to ensure that the timber sale boundary is intact and remains noticeable.
Take note that the NCFS and private foresters are not allowed to establish boundary lines, only a Registered Land Surveyor can do this.
Woodland Management Plans and Tax Implications
Developing a woodland management plan before you harvest will help you identify the practices that should be implemented to maintain and enhance the qualities of your land. Having a management plan and following it may also reduce your property taxes if you meet the requirements specified by North Carolina tax code.
- You should become informed on current tax laws in addition to environmental laws.
- Property taxes and income taxes can be affected by the sale of forest products.
- There are a variety of tax responsibilities that can result from the sale of timber or other forest products from your property.
- Contacting your forester and a certified public accountant (CPA) or other tax specialist can avoid problems.
- An overview of some of the benefits of a woodland plan can be found in North Carolina Forestry Leaflet FM-20.
Execute a Timber Sale Contract
All timber sales should be executed with a written contract. This contract should list in detail the responsibilities of the seller and the buyer. You will likely need to obtain the services of an attorney or other legal professional to draft and execute a contract for it to be legally binding.
Examples of items commonly included in timber contracts:
- Description of the property
- Description of the timber or products, and/or area being sold
- Prices to be paid for the timber or products
- Method and frequency of payments
- Contract duration and time-extension opportunities (if any)
- Adherence to all laws and regulations
- Implementation of appropriate Forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs)
- Special considerations
Protect Water Quality
Water quality and site productivity can be protected during a timber harvest by following these common sense principles:
- Plan and undertake forestry work, such as harvesting, in a way that minimizes soil disturbance and prevents or reduces runoff through the use of Forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs)
- Maintain groundcover where possible to promote absorption of runoff into the soil
- Monitor and maintain BMPs -- fix problems right away
- Use extra precautions when near streams, wetlands or bodies of water
- Do not cross streams unless absolutely necessary. If you must cross, minimize the number and usage of crossings and promptly rehabilitate them when no longer needed
- Control erosion and runoff on forest roads
- Stabilize exposed soil areas as soon as possible after the completion of forestry work
There are several rules, laws and regulations that impact how forestry operations can be conducted in order to protect our water quality.
Forest Preharvest Planning Tool
The North Carolina Forest Service has created the Forest Preharvest Planning Tool to assist loggers and forest landowners in creating a comprehensive preharvest plan online. This tool is a new way for forest operators to create customizable maps and receive site reports, using current GIS data. Users receive helpful and detailed products, through an easy-to-use online interface that is free and publicly available.
We believe this tool will save forestry interests both time and money by improving preharvest planning and communications. Check out our FREE Forest Preharvest Planning Tool (FPPT).
Establish Your New Forest
You should begin thinking about your new forest even before a timber harvest. The NCFS or your consulting forester can develop a plan for renewing your forest. Also, there are several financial assistance and cost-share programs available to help reimburse your costs for tree establishment activities.
Learn more about the Foresters for Healthy Waters Program: Pre-Harvest Plan Cost Share.
Costs for reforestation vary depending on the site conditions after the timber harvest, the terrain, location, and size of the area. In certain cases, site preparation and reforestation activities may be available at a cost from the NCFS - contact your local NCFS office to learn more about our reforestation services.
For tree planting, the NCFS also has pine and hardwood seedlings available for purchase. Call 1-888-NCTREES (1-888-628-7337) or visit the online North Carolina Seedling Store.