Harvesting Timber: Overview

Commercial timber harvests are the best, and in many cases only, viable opportunity to influence woodland growth and development.  Whether the focus is on wildlife habitat improvement, changing the mix of species on the site, starting over after years of neglect or poor management, a well planned timber harvest can help get it done.  Careful tending of your forest, based on sound silviculture (applied forest ecology) can restore large native trees to the landscape, provide a variety of wildlife habitats, restore desirable tree species, and more. All of these things can help you leave your land better off than you found it.

Recent family forest harvest site
Eli Sagor photo

Many new woodland owners think of the impacts from timber harvesting as a necessary downside to the financial return, and other benefits, from a timber sale. Although the financial return can be a reason to harvest timber, it’s by no means the only one.

Skid trails used to remove harvested logs from the woods, if planned properly, can be the foundation for a new recreational trail network. Log landings can be maintained as permanent wildlife openings. Thinnings can be designed not simply to cash in recent growth, but to focus growing space on the best trees in the stand, increasing growth rates and improving stand vigor. (This approach is particularly useful in stands likely to be affected by gypsy moth and forest tent caterpillars.)

Next time you talk to your forester, talk about what you can do to make the best of your woods better.

Many landowners harvest timber only once or twice in their lifetimes.  They have little knowledge of wood products markets, they have little regular contact with foresters or loggers, and understandably they’re a bit uncertain about how to proceed. How can you gain the confidence you need to be successful harvesting and selling timber?

This section can help.  Follow these links at to basic information to consider as you plan a timber harvest:


Eli 's work addresses Minnesota forest ecology & management. He's based in St Paul.

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