How much timber is on an average acre of woodland and what is it worth?
Arnzen Forestry Services Tim Arnzen Forester
Without doubt, the most frequently asked questions I hear are “how much timber is usually found on an acre of woods”, and “what’s it worth”. These seemingly innocent questions are tough ones. The large number of variables involved in growing trees to maturity makes it difficult to give a reasonable answer.
First it will be necessary to limit our discussion to tracts of timber that have not been harvested for a period between twenty and fifty years. This is the usual time span landowners wait between harvests. Anything less than twenty years usually produces low value small trees which are marginally profitable to harvest. On the other end of the time spectrum, fifty years produces lots of mature valuable timber. For this reason very few woodlands go uncut past this time.
It is my estimation that within the time span of twenty to fifty years, the average acre of timber contains roughly 3,000 bd ft, and has a stumpage value (landowner’s share) of approximately $600.00. To help explain how I arrived at these figures, let’s look first at the footage and value of a typical woodland that has been given only twenty to develop. Then we will look at a woodland given fifty years to develop. Averaging these two figures will give us the answers of 3,000 bd ft and $600.00.
The twenty year cut will only average 1,500 bd ft/acre of merchantable timber, and have a stumpage value of approximately $210.00/acre ($140.00/1,000 bd ft). On the other hand, the fifty year cut will average 4,500 bd ft/acre, and have a stumpage value of approximately $1,000.00/acre ($225.00/1,000 bd ft). The difference in price per 1,000 bd ft between the twenty and fifty year cut is due mainly to two factors - the fifty year cut will produce larger trees requiring less time spent cutting, skidding, loading, and transporting logs to the mill. The second factor concerns what happens to these logs once they’re delivered to the mill. Simply stated, the larger diameter trees will yield more high-grade lumber and veneer logs. This increase in grade on the larger trees is the result of having sufficient time to add clear knot-free wood to their butt logs. This clear wood is only added after young trees self-prune themselves by growing tall in a search for sunlight.
I hope this article has given you some ideas of the variance in footage and value between young and mature timber.
Next month we’ll look at what factors influence tree growth and development; and how these factors impact the proper timing of harvest cuts.