Nearly every forest owner in Clermont County has now endured the painful reality of losing ash trees due to the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Driving down the roads, the damage is apparent everywhere you look. As a forest landowner, you may wonder “What is next for my woodlot?” Many woodlot owners have never thought of or even wanted to harvest timber on their property, but are now turning to logging to salvage timber or improve the appearance and health of their newly altered woodlot. Here are a few things to help those who are unfamiliar with timber harvests.
If you sold some timber in the past and the logging company’s poor management practices led to soil erosion and stream sedimentation, you’d probably have some choice words for the person responsible. However, you’d be talking to yourself. When woodland owners sell timber, their legal responsibility for preventing water pollution doesn’t pass to the logger harvesting the trees. Under Ohio’s Agricultural Pollution Abatement law, which addresses impacts to the “waters of the State” resulting from timber harvests, responsibility rests with the landowner.
Sometimes, erosion or sedimentation problems aren’t obvious to the landowner until after the timber harvest is finished. By then it can be difficult to get the logging company to correct problems, especially if the company has gone on to another job – often in another county! That’s why it is so important to choose a logger carefully, to insist on a written contract that requires the use of best management practices, and to file a Operation and Management (O&M) plan with the local soil and water conservation district (SWCD) before starting the harvest.
O&M plans are not mandatory for timber harvests, but they can help landowners and loggers head off problems. Filing a plan signals to the logger that the landowner takes erosion control seriously and lets the SWCD know a timber harvest is planned. If the SWCD sees a problem with the plan, the plan can be revised before the harvest starts and problems occur. A plan approved by the local SWCD can also help protect a landowner from nuisance lawsuits as long as the best management practices in the plan are being followed.
In 2006, the Division of Soil & Water Conservation and local SWCDs formed a coalition with forest resource agencies throughout Ohio to unveil a campaign aimed at increasing landowners awareness of these critical timber harvesting issues. The “Call Before You Cut” program informs landowners of their options when considering a timber harvest.
Landowners should first visit the website http://callb4ucut.com/ or call 877-4B4-UCUT to learn more details about the program. If landowners decide to file a “Notice of Intent to Harvest” or an O&M Plan, they can then call the Clermont SWCD (732-7075) for further assistance.
Of course, just putting a plan on paper won’t ensure that best management practices are followed during a timber harvest. Unless the landowner has expertise in managing a timber harvest, it’s best to seek out professional help. Service Foresters from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry can advise landowners on woodland management, including best management practices for timber harvests and filing O&M plans. Many landowners also rely on private consulting foresters, who can manage a timber sale and oversee the harvest. Industry foresters employed by companies that use raw wood products might also be able to help landowners manage a harvest.