We have been very busy these past couple of weeks with quite a few phone calls. Many of these calls are from people unhappy about some activity going on in their neighborhood. Several of these activities fit into the category of what we like to call “permissible, not advisable” actions. Just because there may be a lack of rules or laws specifically addressing an action, doesn’t mean it is a good idea.
When it comes to forestry, we get calls asking about mud on the road, tree tops in the stream, erosion, clearcutting, removal of trees along a stream, and buffer strips, just to name a few recent examples. While many of these actions may not be a violation of any laws, a little common sense can go a long way to keeping you out of trouble and preserving good relationships with your neighbors.
Nearly eight million acres of Ohio are forested, providing a wide range of benefits. Trees furnish us with lumber, veneer, wildlife habitat, shade, beauty, oxygen, and diverse recreational opportunities. Less obvious is the great role trees and forests play in controlling stormwater and in protecting our soil against erosion. A major management tool for improving the health and vitality of these forests is timber cutting. Can you sell your trees yourself? Sure, but this falls under the category of permissible, but not advisable.
Selling timber is a complicated process. Do you know what species make up your woodlot? Do you know which trees you want to sell? Do you know your property or sale boundaries? Are you knowledgeable about Ohio’s Agricultural Pollution Abatement Rules and Standards, which pertain to silvicultural practices? What are your long-term goals for your woods? Are you using best management practices to protect yourself, your trees, and the environment throughout the process? Do you understand Ohio’s Forest Tax Law? Do you know if there are any endangered or threatened species in the area?
Unfortunately, there are many potential ways in which a woodland owner can be taken advantage of or run afoul of the law. Here is where we can cue the trumpet from the cartoon Dudley Do-Right — all is not gloom and doom. (If you don’t recall Dudley and his nemesis, Snidely Whiplash, check him out on YouTube.) Woodland owners can save the day by working with a professional forester. Engaging a professional forester will help you with the following:
• Enhancing future timber value
• Improving the health and vigor of your woodland
• Protecting precious soil and water resources
• Minimizing visual impacts
• Developing wildlife habitat
• Creating vistas and trails
• Developing recreational activities
Service foresters with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Forestry, professional consulting foresters, and industry foresters can assist you with the creation of a stewardship plan tailored to your objectives, current conditions, and a set of prescribed activities that will help you meet your objectives. Contact information for Ohio foresters can be found at forestry.ohiodnr.gov/landownerassistance. Another way to locate the technical expertise you need, including Ohio Master Loggers, is at callb4ucut.com/ohio/expert-help/.
Can you sell your timber without a written contract? Yes, but again we say permissible, but definitely not advisable. A professional forester can advise you on negotiating a written timber sales contract that outlines the responsibilities of all parties, specifies all financial and other agreements, addresses issues of special concern, and protects interests of all parties to the contract. Because tree harvesting can result in erosion and subsequent deposition of the sediment in our streams, rivers and lakes, best management practices (BMPs) should be applied during harvest and as a final close out of the operation. A copy of BMPs for Erosion Control for Logging Practices in Ohio can be found at callb4ucut.com. Your forester can monitor the progress of the harvest, including installation of BMPs and final cleanup of the site, on your behalf. All of this will protect you and your valuable soil and water resources.
Visit our website at www.delawareswcd.org to find out the latest in conservation programs and events. Learn about our free workshop “Homesteading in Delaware County” to be held on Jan. 31 at the Berkshire Township Hall at 6:30 p.m. In addition, you can discover all of the particulars about our annual tree and shrub seedling sale, which is underway now.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.delawareswcd.org.