Consulting Foresters, What Do They Do?

What do you do for a living? This is the first question that is asked during most casual conversations. When my answer is, “I am a consulting forester”, there is an onslaught of questions that follow. What is that?  Why should someone hire you?  What do you actually do?  How much do you charge? These are just a few of the questions that I get asked when someone hears that I am a forestry consultant.

The answers to these questions are not always clear and can be misunderstood in a casual conversation. Below, you will find a more thorough and hopefully clearer explanation as to what a consulting forester does and how one can be beneficial to you.

What is a consulting forester?

First of all, a consulting forester is a professional forester with a forestry degree from an accredited university working for a private company.  Forestry consultants offer forestry and land management advice to landowners while focusing on the landowner’s personal objectives.  Often times the term “consultant” is used by timber buyers, loggers, and foresters that are employed by forest product companies whose main focus is to procure wood products for the company employing them.  An actual consulting forester has no ties or obligations to any wood production or forest products company.  Our only obligation is to the landowners who hire us for our services. Knowing the difference between these types of foresters is important for one to recognize when trying to make decisions regarding your timber and property management.

Why hire a consulting forester?

Consulting foresters bring a wide array of services to landowners that other foresters may not be able to offer.  For example, foresters employed by government agencies or forest products companies are usually not able to offer a complete package of services that are afforded to consulting foresters.  A consulting forester has the landowner’s objectives in mind and is focused on helping the landowner make the correct decisions to meet those objectives.  A consulting forester will also ensure that practices used will enhance the condition and value of your property.  Whether it is a timber sale, road construction, wildlife habitat improvement, or reforestation, a consultant is able to guide the landowner through the process from beginning to end.

Many landowners question why they need a “middle-man” to do something they can do themselves.  Timber sales handled by a consultant almost always generate more revenue than sales conducted directly between landowners and timber buyers.  I think the main reason for using a consultant to handle a timber sale is for their knowledge.  Knowledge of timber prices is one thing consultants can pride themselves on.  Many factors including tree species, products, and weather conditions contribute to changing timber prices.  Timber prices change frequently and can change very quickly depending on market conditions.  Consulting foresters continuously monitor these changes and can help landowners make good decisions about when and how to sell their timber to take advantage of good timber markets.  A landowner using a consulting forester will get the true market value for their timber.  A consultant will also ensure that a contract protecting the landowner is signed and abided by during the timber sale process.  This is a very important document which details the landowner’s responsibilities and the responsibilities of the timber buyer.

Once again, the consultant is focused on the landowner’s goals and knows how to help achieve them.  Not only is getting a good price for timber important, but knowing what a landowner will be left with is just as important.  Whether it is a thinning or a clearcut, a consultant can give advice on the next steps to take to enhance the property’s future condition.  For example, a consultant marking trees to be harvested during a thinning will ensure that the remaining timber is healthy and capable of meeting the landowner’s future objectives.

To quickly summarize why one should hire a consulting forester starts with the wide array of services a consultant can offer and most importantly that the consultant works for you, and not a forest products company, timber buyer, or any other agency.

What does a consulting forester do?

As previously mentioned, consulting foresters can offer a wide range of services and not all consultants offer the exact same services.  Consulting foresters may advise landowners on timber valuations, reforestation, timber tax and forest property tax issues, reforestation, timber values for estate planning, enhancing wildlife habitat, just to name a few.  A consulting forester completely understands the goals of the landowner, gathers information regarding their property and forest, and puts a plan in place to help achieve those goals.  These management plans serve as a road map to reach the landowner’s goals and objectives.

A consulting forester serves as your agent during the timber sale process. This includes handling the timber sale bid process (preparing bid prospectus, advertising the timber sale to timber buyers, showing the subject timber to the buyers, collecting bids, evaluating bids, preparing contracts), marking the timber, supervising harvest operations, and handling income settlements.

Consulting foresters can handle reforestation activities and advise landowners on the appropriate activities needed and make sure these activities are completed in a timely and effective manner. These may include site preparation (herbicide and/or burning), tree species selection and purchasing, and tree planting.

These are only a few of the services offered by consulting foresters.  Forestry consultants offer a variety of services to help landowners achieve their land management objectives and can conduct projects from start to finish.  For a complete list of activities offered by Southern Forestry Consultants, Inc. visit our webpage at www.soforest.com

How much does a consulting forester cost?

There are no set costs for consulting fees for most forestry consultants. Fees are generally based on the activity, size of the property, or on an hourly rate.  For instance, a consulting forester will usually be paid a percentage of the timber sale income for conducting the sale.  This ensures that your consulting forester is trying to get the best prices for your timber.  For activities such as prescribed burning or herbicide applications, a consultant may charge by the acre.

The cost of consulting foresters depends on the property and the work being performed.  Be sure to ask your forester about their fees and pricing.

Conclusion

Who should hire a consulting forester?  This question really comes down to the landowner’s personal knowledge of forestry and forestry practices.  Anyone that has forestland and has questions regarding their assets or property should contact a consulting forester to determine if they could benefit from their professional assistance.  Remember, your consulting forester works for you.  Clearly convey your objectives for your forestland to your consultant so, that with proper activities, these goals can be achieved.

If you find yourself asking any of the questions above and want to know more about consulting forestry, give Southern Forestry Consultants, Inc. a call today.