Foresters often are asked, "How much is my timber worth?" At the risk of appearing glib, my common response is to ask in return, "How long is a line?" Granted, we can report averages; but so many variables are involved in determining the value of a given acre of timber that the averages are nearly meaningless to an individual landowner.
The amount of timber per acre can vary from a minimally operable 2 thousand board feet (mbf) per acre to more than 12 mbf per acre. Average value per mbf (for all species) also varies with geographic region in West Virginia, as reported by the W.Va. Division of Forestry in its West Virginia Timber Price Report, 1998. The most valuable areas are the eastern mountains ($267.37) and the Eastern Panhandle ($359.64). The lowest average price per mbf ($172.66) can be found in the southwestern counties.
Consequently, without regard to a particular mix of species, an acre of 2 mbf of timber in one of the southwestern counties might yield $345.32, while an acre of 12 mbf of timber in an Eastern Panhandle county on a good site might yield $4,315.68.
Geographical differences have much to do with the quality of the growing sites and the resulting quality of the timber--the percentage of #1 Common and Better lumber that the timber can be expected to produce.
In addition to variations in value due to geographical area, average stumpage prices for individual species vary from a low of $30.15 for hickory in the Northern Panhandle to $809.05 for cherry in the eastern mountains. It is easy to understand how species composition can dramatically affect value.
The terms under which the landowner offers timber for sale also affect the value per acre. All other factors being equal, a selective harvest obviously offers less total volume for sale than does a regeneration harvest. Other sale conditions that affect the amount a buyer is willing to offer for timber include whether payment is to be a lump sum before harvest or pay-as-you-go; the level of additional environmental restrictions placed on the buyer; and the length of time offered the operator for removing the timber.
Forest landowners are encouraged to seek the assistance of a professional forester in order to better understand the value of the asset they might be considering marketing. In addition to the value, a professional forester will also be able to help the landowner understand the various options and the advantages and disadvantages of each with regard to the landowner's individual situation.
Youll find information on the timber sale process at the Appalachian Hardwood Center's Web site ( http://www.wvu.edu/~exten/depts/af/ahc/ahc.htm ).The Money CAN Grow on Trees link provides information on the timber sale process, taxes on the sale of timber, and forest management options. You can locate consulting foresters who work in West Virginia through the link to The 1999 Directory of Consulting Foresters.