Eight years ago a third generation German forester visited here. After driving 40 miles (65 km) from the airport to Spring Green, Dr. Ingo Grebe stated, "I see that you don't manage your timber here." (Two years ago I visited Germany and instantly understood the difference between their Good Industrial Forestry and the U.S. high-grading forestry) Americans don't value their forests.
Wisconsin farmers manage all their other crops with great skill and knowledge, yet neglect and mismanage their most abundant crop - their trees. The reasons became clear talking with local forest owners: The timber market is a horrible deterrent to forestry on private lands. As a result, forest owners have low forest-esteem
Why Forest Owners Don't Manage - The underlying reasons;
1. Standing Timber Prices are Low
Timber prices are too low to make forest management profitable. The U.S. the timber industry is a $300,000,000,000/year giant. Everyone in the industry makes good income and profit, except the forest owner. Forestry will never be sustainable if the producer is not making money for their effort and their investment. Less than 1% of forest owners here have any practical knowledge of what timber they own, what it is worth, or how much money they make on timber. Timber prices at the mill yards are controlled by Supply and Demand, and are so low that timber buyers are pressured to minimize what they pay the forest owner just to stay in business.
2. Brokers/timber buyers typically shortchange inexperienced woodlot owners.
Market prices are very low, yet timber buyers typically shortchange the forest owner also. One buyer explained that procuring timber is like a game - the experienced buyers make sport by taking advantage of unknowing landowners. (In the past, when I have been in the position to buy logs/trees from another forest owner, I feel like a totally different person. The bias to make myself more money by unfairly grading and scaling is very strong) Timber buyers use thousands of ploys to minimize what they actually pay the forest owner and increase their own profits. The timber buyer "middleman" is the most discouraging force in preventing responsible forest management on private lands. Industry should clean up this act, as these timber buyers are the industry representatives that the forest owner deals with face to face. Forest owners keep taking what they can get as 'something is better than nothing'.
3. No good price information is available.
Here in Wisconsin, everyday the TVs, radios, and newspapers tell the daily market prices for many agricultural crops. There is no market price for timber. Every timber sale is a negotiated price between an experienced buyer and an inexperienced landowner. Every attempt to provide meaningful price information to forest owners has failed and the reported prices are too low to make a profit anyway. Variations in grading and scaling standards make it more difficult for the forest owner to interpret what price information is available.