Every time I meet someone new the question eventually arises “What do you do for a living?” People seem to understand the Real Estate sales portion of my job well enough. They are familiar with Realtors in general because of personal experiences when purchasing a home, various reality TV shows, and the list goes on and on. When I get to the part about being a consulting forester, more often than not, they seem to have very little, if any idea of what that means. “So you work for the state?” By this point I can see that I have lost them as they picture me in a tower looking for fires, cutting down trees, or just walking around hunting all day. In reality, a consulting forester is not all that different from a Realtor.
In the state of Alabama, people that represent themselves as professional foresters are required to be Registered (licensed) by a state board. Registration requires a 4-year degree (in forestry), two years of job experience (in forestry), a trip to Montgomery to take a lengthy test that focuses on general knowledge and ethics, and a small fee of course. We have an annual continuing education requirement of 10 hours in order to maintain our eligibility for Registration. These are not unlike the steps to earning and maintaining a real estate salesperson’s license. We also have a fiduciary responsibility to our clients. A consulting forester uses his knowledge of science, ecology, operations, chemicals, contractors, local markets etc. in order to help landowners achieve their goals and objectives for their property.
One of the main functions consulting foresters perform is selling timber. I don’t think that I have personally sold a timber sale yet where the difference in the lowest and highest bids was not more than enough to cover the commission. The landowner also receives the benefit of having a third party monitor the progress of the sale, keep up with settlement payments to ensure proper payment has been made for the timber cut, prevent destructive logging practices, and ensure that any excessive damage is satisfactorily repaired. When the sale is complete, we also arrange and monitor site preparation and reforestation activities if the landowner so desires. Outside of timber harvesting, the number of services consulting foresters perform is only limited by the imagination. We have some clients with larger land portfolios for whom we handle everything from harvest planning, stand treatments (burns, releases, etc.), property taxes, hunting leases, and even record keeping. We also have some clients with smaller parcels of land that we may only work with once or twice to sell some land or timber, appraise a stand of timber, or help control invasive species. The average landowner will not need the services of a consulting forester on a continuous basis; however, it is still a good idea to have a working relationship with one because you never know when a situation may arise where even seasoned landowners may need some help.
The purpose of this article is to offer a little advice to the average landowner, whether they are buying their first tract of land or their 10th, about the benefits and services consulting foresters can provide. In the future I would like to look more closely at some of the challenges a landowner will face over time such as how to make sure you are working with the right people, the importance of timing with management activities and timber harvests, property maintenance, reforestation, and anything else I can come up with that may be “article worthy”.
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