What Is A Woodlot? 11 Things (2024) You Should Know

Do you own a woodlot?

If so, you own a long-term investment that requires some healthy management for productive harvesting.

Woodlots aren’t self-tending, and the sooner you learn how to manage yours, the sooner you can improve your output.

So in this blog, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about growing healthier trees, fostering wildlife habitats, improving water quality, creating opportunities for outdoor recreation, and increasing the value of your land.

Let’s get started.

1. What is a woodlot?

A woodlot (also called a wood, woodland, or coppice) is defined as a parcel of a woodland or forest capable of small-scale production and recreational uses.

One distinguishing characteristic of a woodlot is that the parcel size or quality of the wood on the parcel does not generally justify full-scale commercial harvesting.

This ultimately leaves woodlots to be privately invested in by individuals.

When good forest management practices are used, even small woodlots can create a sustainable source of products.

2. What can a woodlot be used for?

As noted above, woodlots can produce forest products, such as wood fuel, sap for maple syrup, sawlogs, and pulpwood.

They can also be used for recreational uses, like bird watching, bushwalking, and wildflower appreciation.

3. Where do you find woodlots?

Woodlots can occur as part of a farm, buffers, or undeveloped land between these and other property types (i.e., housing subdivisions, industrial forests, or public property).

You’re likely to find smaller woodlots when a subdivision has not met its development potential or where the terrain doesn’t easily permit other uses.

Larger woodlots (hundreds of acres+), on the other hand, may emerge where profitable wood species have been depleted by commercial logging practices or compromised by diseases.

4. What information do you need to know about your woodlot before you can take action?

Before any woodlot management takes place, you should be certain about your property boundaries.

After all, the last thing you want is to accidentally encroach on your neighbor’s land.

bulletCheck your deed, which will contain a written description of your boundary corners (if you don’t have your deed at home, then it will be available at your county courthouse).

bulletGet a survey done to ensure your boundaries are up-to-date and accurate.

bulletHave aerial photos taken by your local Farm Services Agency office (these photos will show the property boundaries).

bulletLook at the topographic map, which is useful for showing elevation changes, streams, and other landmarks.

bulletCheck the soils map from your local conservation district (this will provide information to determine what tree species may be on your property).

5. How do you start a woodlot management plan?

Successful management of a woodlot requires putting a plan in place.

Having a woodlot management plan can help you increase the value of your lot and track the goals that you hope to achieve.

If you plan to sell timber, then you’ll need to work with a professional forester who understands your vision and will help you work toward it.

A forester can not only market your timber effectively, but also conserve what you value.

Keep in mind that those working with a professional forester are ultimately more satisfied with the outcome of their timber sales.

They also consistently receive higher prices.

Because woodlots are looked at as long-term investments (and it may take 20 to 50 years of management before you harvest at a profit), it’s often worth bringing a professional on board to ensure you maximize these harvests.

Steps to Create Your Management Plan:

bulletDetermine your short and long-term objectives by asking yourself, “What do you want from your woodlot?”

bulletAssess the physical and biological characteristics of your woodland.

bulletDevelop a written plan, including descriptions, recommendations, a map, and a timetable for scheduling specific activities.

bulletFollow the schedule of activities to ensure that you achieve your objectives.

bulletWork with professionals to help you achieve the goals that you wrote in your management plan.

6. How do you know the value of the trees in your woodlot?

There are a variety of factors that impact the value of the trees in your woodlot.

These factors include tree species, quality, board foot volume, accessibility, site conditions, and distance to markets.

bulletQuality: determined by log diameter and length as well as the presence of surface and internal defects, growing site (soil types), and species.

bulletProximity to mills and markets: impacts price but is less of a problem if you have a sufficient volume of high-quality logs.

bulletSite conditions: well-drained soils increase value, steep areas may lower prices, flat sites with poor drainage will lower prices.

bulletProximity to water and stream crossings: will increase logging costs.

bulletOther factors: the volume of trees per acre, the shape of the sale area, distance to roads and mills, time of year, owner-imposed restrictions on cutting, equipment needs, and myriad other factors.

7. How should you harvest trees on your woodlot?

The Kansas Forest Service suggests you cut trees in the following priority:

bulletDead trees that are not needed or wanted for wildlife habitat.

These trees will be an immediate source of dry firewood and provide nesting sites for woodpeckers.

Hawks and owls may also use them as observation towers.

When such trees can be used as nesting sites and observation towers for larger animals, populations of smaller animals and insects will remain in check.

bulletPoor quality trees that are deformed, diseased, damaged, or otherwise defective.

By removing these trees, you’ll make room for higher quality trees, and you can use the ones you cut down for firewood.

You’ll also reduce your lot’s vulnerability to disease or infestation.

bulletFull-grown trees that are good firewood species.

By cutting these down, you’ll make room for younger, healthier, faster-growing trees.

bulletYoung trees to be thinned.

Thinning young trees will allow the few remaining trees to grow faster.

If you thin properly, then your tree growth could double or even triple.

bulletAdditional harvesting to create access roads or paths or as necessary to construct a campsite, cabin, or outbuilding.

8. What are some common forest management practices?

Below is a summary of the common forest management practices that you should be aware of as you consider managing your woodlot.

bulletThinning: This practice is designed to remove trees from an overstocked stand.

When trees are overcrowded, they compete with each other for nutrients, sunlight, and water.

By thinning your woodlot of low-quality trees, you improve the overall health of the forest.

The materials removed from thinning may have value as firewood, fence posts, or other specialty uses.

bulletCull Tree Removal: This is the practice of eliminating diseases, poorly formed, or undesirable trees from the stand.

It intends to remove weed trees to provide room for the main crop trees such as uncommon species, den trees, well-formed trees, and vigorously growing trees.

bulletIntermediate Cutting: This practice removes trees from a stand before the final harvest cutting to provide space for the growth of trees that will yield the greatest return in the future.

bulletHarvest Cutting: This practice is made in a stand at or near the end of the selected rotation age and done in such a way as to ensure the regeneration of a new stand of trees.

You should perform a harvest cut after most trees in the stand have reached harvest size.

bulletCrop Tree Release: This practice focused on releasing and increasing the growth rate of individual trees that have been selected to accomplish specific landowner objectives.

9. How should you handle timber marketing?

Selling timber is often a once-in-a-lifetime event that will have long-term impacts on your woodland.

For the best outcome, you should consider factors like price, forest health, and future productivity.

Hiring a professional consulting forester to work on your behalf is another way to maximize your profit.

A consulting forester has two primary obligations.

The first is to help you get the best price for your timber.

The second is to perform the harvest in a sustainable manner while preserving future management options.

They’ll do this by performing the following tasks:

bulletNegotiating a contract with you that covers their responsibilities in preparing and administering the timber sale.

bulletDetermining the volume, quality, and approximate value of the standing timber.

bulletDevising a plan to conduct the harvesting procedure and marking the trees to be cut.

bulletDeveloping an erosion and sedimentation plan.

bulletNotifying potential buyers of the impending sale and soliciting bids.

bulletNegotiating a contract on your behalf.

bulletCollecting and holding any completion bonds.

bulletInspecting the harvest operation frequently.

bulletConducting a postharvest follow-up before closing the contract and releasing the bond.

Consulting foresters are paid either on a lump-sum basis, a percentage of the sale price, at an hourly rate, or on units of work completed.

You should discuss their pay expectations before you begin working with them.

When selling your timber, we also recommend that you consult with legal counsel.

Have a lawyer review the contract when you hire your forester as well as the resulting contract for the timber sale.

Although this may seem like an extra and unnecessary step right now, it can save you both time and money later.

You want to make sure that the contracts include all the details related to the sale, logging, and any follow-up work that the buyer is responsible for before closing the operation.

10. Should you improve your woodlot? 

A woodlot is a dynamic asset.

Understanding how to manage your woodlot correctly and implementing improvements can help you to increase its value.

Some improvements you can make on your woodlot include:

bulletBoundary line maintenance and roads: As noted above, knowing exactly what you own is a vital step before you can pursue management and development.

This is money well-spent!

Additionally, if you ever decide to sell your woodlot, your property is much more marketable because the lines are clear and marked.

Roads are necessary because they improve access.

Depending on what currently exists on the property, creating a road network will help you to extract forest products and make the woodlot more accessible to you or the public.

bulletHarvesting/Thinning: If proper harvesting methods are used, then you can increase the value of your lot through harvesting.

bulletPlanting trees

bulletLocating mineral deposits

bulletImproving wildlife populations

bulletImproving recreational opportunities

bulletIdentifying specialty markets for woodlot products (Christmas tree production, maple syrup, mushrooms, etc.)

When you improve your woodlot, there are numerous other advantages.

Here are the top ones that you should keep in mind as you consider improvements:

bulletEnhance wildlife habitats

bulletImprove aesthetic

bulletDevelop recreational options and open space values in your area

bulletInitiate forest stand regeneration

bulletImprove forest health by reducing the potential of damage from pests and moisture stresses

bulletRestore natural plant communities

bulletReduce wildfire hazard

bulletIncrease carbon storage in selected trees

bulletGain an added source of income

bulletProvide energy for farm or home use

11. What are some helpful woodlot resources?

Are you just getting started with a woodlot and need to know where to look for information?

After reading this article, we recommend looking to some of these other sources for helpful tips about woodlot management.

bulletMaine Forest Service

bulletNatural Resources Conservation Service

bulletFarm Service Agency

bulletCooperative Extension Service

bulletAmerican Tree Farm System

bulletMaine Audubon Society

bulletMaine Christmas Tree Association

bulletMaple Producers Association

bulletNew England Forestry Foundation

bulletSustainable Forestry Initiative

Final Thoughts

No matter how large or small your woodlot, following forest management practices can help make your land healthier, more attractive, and more profitable.

Even if your woodlot is mostly unused pasture or open land, remember that it’s never too late to start.

Invest in the good practices above and see timber harvested in your lifetime!

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Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.


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