When Marc Thomas worked for the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC), he met dozens of landowners who, for financial reasons, were selling their timber in a hurry. Many of these landowners had inherited their timberland from their parents, and they were either absentee landowners—trying to manage the land from a distance—or they had just moved home after years of city life. Others knew how they would like to manage their forests but did not have the financial resources to put this knowledge to work. While state and federal cost sharing and incentive plans were in place to help them, Marc discovered that very few of the people he met were taking advantage of these programs.
The LIFE Program
Today, Marc works at Fort Valley State University in Georgia, and one of his responsibilities is to continue the implementation of the Landowner Initiative for Forestry Education (LIFE) program. LIFE’s mission is to help minority and limited resource forest landowners.
The goals of the program are to educate and raise awareness,” said Thomas. “We want to encourage landowners to develop goals and objectives for their land, to create and implement land management plans. We want to provide landowners with the information and technical assistance they need to implement those plans. We want make sure forest landowners have the necessary skills and information to negotiate market prices when it comes time to harvest their trees. Finally, we want to reinforce that the forest is part of our legacy and encourage landowners to retain this valuable natural resource for future generations who will also make a living off the land and pass it on to their children. That is how wealth is created."
The Timber Owner Market Guide
To accomplish these goals, Marc knew he would need the right tools and the right partners. From his days at the GFC, he remembered Forest2Market’s Georgia Timber Report. Forest2Market creates a quarterly report about timber prices in Georgia specifically for the GFC. But Marc needed to educate forestland owners about more than market prices; he needed to provide best practices for managing forestland as well. So he called Forest2Market.
Suzanne Hearn, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at Forest2Market, recommended the Timber Owner Market Guide to help Marc—and the eight cooperative extension agents and program assistants who work with him—increase awareness of land management practices among limited resource and minority forestland owners. “Marc is very dedicated to the landowners in the program,” said Hearn. “He lobbied hard on their behalf when describing how Forest2Market’s data could play a significant role in helping individual timberland owners keep and manage their lands for the future. He made such a strong case that I gave him the discount subscriptions he asked for.”
The Timber Owner Market Guide turned out to be the ideal tool for Marc and those the LIFE program serves. It provides local market price-per-ton information for various types and classes of timber—pine sawtimber, chip-n-saw, pulpwood and hardwood sawtimber. This information is crucial for the program. According to Thomas, once the new forest landowners understood there were differences in prices based on the type and size of trees in a stand, they immediately understood that they could build harvesting plans to increase their income. And, of course, knowing the going rate for timber gave them the information needed to effectively evaluate bids from wood-buyers and dealers.
In addition to pricing, the Timber Owner Market Guide provides detailed information about best practices for managing timberland. From proper thinning techniques to tax and estate planning tips, the helpful hints provide practical advice and links to additional information. The FSVU - Cooperative Extension Program’s county extension agents, who generally have agricultural instead of forestry backgrounds, use these articles to improve their knowledge of forest management; they then share the information with forestland owners. “Our agents and program assistants are able to pass along valuable timber marketing information through the knowledge they’ve acquired from the Timber Owner Market Guide,” said Thomas.
While Marc and the LIFE program use a variety of methods to raise awareness and provide information to minority and limited resource forestland owners—including workshops and marketing—they are beginning to see the results of having the Forest2Market Timber Owner Market Guide in their tool boxes. Landowners working in the program, who generally own 30-250 acres of timberland, are writing land management plans that include recommendations for harvesting, maintenance and replanting. They are enrolling in the Georgia Stewardship Program and taking advantage of state and federal cost sharing programs. When it comes time to harvest, many are getting three to five bids from wood-buyers and dealers. As a result, these limited resource and minority forestland owners are making better once-in-a-lifetime decisions when selling their timber.
More importantly, these forest landowners are re-establishing their ties to the land of their parents and grandparents and creating legacies for their children and grandchildren. They are finding in the forest not only a source of enjoyment and income, but also a source of wealth to pass on to future generations.
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