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Timber Harvesting

Stewardship of Forest Land

Timber Harvest Operation

Ownership of forestland carries with it an obligation to tend and care for this renewable resource, holding it in trust for present and future generations. The decisions a forest owner makes can affect the forest for decades or even centuries. Stewardship means wise use of forest resources. Responsible forest management will further your goals as a landowner and ensure the health and productivity of your forest. A well-managed forest is vigorous and healthy, aesthetically pleasing, effective in preserving the watershed system and valuable for the production of timber and other forest products.

Permit Requirements for Harvesting Timber in New York State

A permit or other requirement(s) may be necessary to undertake a timber harvest in New York State.

A state permit is not necessary for harvesting timber specifically, but a state permit is required when crossing certain classified streams, working in certain designated wetlands, or for clearcuts over 25 acres in the Adirondack Park.

Local laws, ordinances or regulations may regulate timber harvesting, along with other related activities like road access and use.

Before undertaking a timber harvest on your forestland, you should ALWAYS check with your nearest DEC office and the Town Clerk for the town in which the harvest will occur about any permit requirements or harvesting restrictions.

Check with the nearest DEC office about:

  • Stream Crossings - If a timber harvest requires crossing a stream, it is possible you will be required to obtain an Article 15 state individual permit, or general permit, from the Regional Permit Administrator at your local DEC office.
  • Timber Harvest Activities in a Designated Wetland - Most timber harvesting in designated wetlands is exempt from requirement of a state permit. However Depending on the level of harvesting and the extent of road building or other activities associated with a harvest, timber harvests taking place in a wetland may require an Article 24 state wetlands permit from the Regional Permit Administrator at your local DEC office.

Check with the Town Clerk:

  • To determine if there is a local timber harvesting law or ordinance that requires a permit or other administrative action in the town where the harvest will occur.

For harvests on private land in the Adirondack Park, check with the Adirondack Park Agency about:

  • Clearcuts greater than 25 acres
  • Timber harvesting in "Wild, Scenic and Recreational River" corridors (while a permit is not required, certain harvesting restrictions apply)

Responsible Forest Management

The first step in developing a forest management plan is to determine your goals as a forest owner. Is income your primary interest? Do you want to improve the health and appearance of the forest? Is providing access or recreational opportunity important to you?

Goals influence choices about management techniques. For example, a forest owner can harvest trees for the income. The same owner wants the forest to thrive as a garden does if it is thinned and weeded. Goals are important because the trees chosen for wildlife habitat or aesthetic purposes might be different from those selected for timber production.

Advice on forest management techniques is available from DEC professional foresters or from private consulting foresters who can discuss your interests, outline your options and prepare management recommendations.

Timber Harvesting as a Tool

As a component of your overall management plan, a timber harvest is an important tool for achieving your goals and maintaining the health of your forest.

A properly planned and conducted harvest of your woodlands yields many benefits. In addition to providing income, tree harvesting enhances forest health and appearance, improves productivity, wildlife habitat and recreational access, and increases property values and preserves water quality.

Use NYS Forestry Best Management Practices for Water Quality to protect water, soil and forest resources.

Selling Forest Products

Selling trees as part of an overall management plan can improve the long-term quality and value of both the land and the remaining timber.

Selling Your Forest Products

How Timber Is Sold

Standing timber can be sold for a lump sum or by scale.

Lump Sum Sale. Trees marked and tallied by a forester are sold outright, with payment in advance. Potential buyers know which trees they are bidding on and the estimated volume. Lump sum sale is the best method for most forest owners.

Selling By Scale. Payment is received for the volume of trees removed. The method of determining volume should be stipulated in the sales contract.

Note: Selling by scale may involve additional Worker's Compensation liability for the seller. Consult with an attorney to determine your liability.

How Wood Is Measured

Sawlogs and veneer logs (those large enough to be cut into lumber) are measured by the board foot, which is the amount of square lumber a round log will yield. Sawlogs are usually sold by the thousand board feet (MBF).

Pulpwood and firewood are usually measured by the cord, which is a stack of roundwood 4' x 4' x 8'. Pulpwood and wood fuel chips may also be measured and sold by weight, which can vary from one and one half to three tons per cord, depending upon species and other factors.

Get Advice

Before initiating a timber harvest, get technical advice and assistance from your regional DEC forester or from a consulting forester. The forester is a professional who can advise about forest management options and methods and help select trees to save or cut.

How to Ensure a Successful Timber Harvest

  1. Use a professional forester.
    This forester will help you with the essential activities listed below.
  2. Identify your property boundary lines.
    If there is a doubt about the exact boundaries, consult with your neighbor or have the property surveyed.
  3. Contact your local DEC office and town clerk.
    Check with the town clerk and apply for any required permits or ordinances.
    Is a Permit Required to Harvest Timber in New York?
  4. Identify the trees being sold.
    The best way is to have a forester mark each tree with bright paint at eye level and at the stump. Measure each tree as it is marked in order to estimate the volume of the marked trees.
  5. Advertise the sale.
    Send a notice of sale of forest products to potential buyers asking for bids. The New York Logger Training Program maintains a list of certified timber harvesters and DEC keeps lists of sawmills and other primary wood processing facilities both in-state and out of state. Other avenues are forest products marketing bulletins and trade journals.
    A notice of sale of forest products should include:
    • Your name, address and telephone number,
    • The estimate of the volume of marked trees offered for sale,
    • Terms of harvesting,
    • Terms of bidding,
    • Terms of sale,
    • Map or description of location of the property.
  6. Prepare and award a timber sale contract.
    The contract should always be in writing and include any verbal agreements made between buyer and seller.
    DEC can advise on the types of things a timber sales contract should cover. However, an attorney should draw up any agreement.
  7. Inspect harvesting activities.
    The owner or forester should be on the site on the first day of the harvest and meet the workers. Every week or so, the owner or forester should inspect the progress of the work. Routine inspections help avoid contract violations. In addition, any problems that may occur can be corrected right away.

Further Advice and Information

Take advantage of the service your DEC regional office can provide. Foresters can answer any questions about tree harvesting or forest management, inspect your property and advise on management options and the specifics of selling forest products.