These prices are for #1 hardwood logs, at least 8 feet long, with three clear faces and a minimum 12-inch top diameter. In the timber world, this is a log of average quality, not a prime sawlog and not a poor one.
Landowners should remember that the dollar amount here indicates what is being paid for logs that have been felled, limbed, skidded, bucked, and delivered to a mill or buyer. The cost of logging and trucking need to be subtracted from these figures to arrive at the price paid to the landowner. Because every job is different, these costs vary widely.
Negotiating a fair price requires an understanding of markets and job conditions. It’s recommended that landowners without this knowledge use a forester as an agent. A forester’s fee will add to the cost, but their representation will often result in a higher payment for the timber.
These data are compiled from interviews with suppliers and buyers and from the most recent print and on-line versions of the Sawlog Bulletin, and are used by permission. For more information on the Sawlog Bulletin, call 603-837-1101 or go to sawlogbulletin.org. Please note that many of these prices were reported three months prior to our publication date, and current prices could be higher or lower.
High End vs. Low End
The obvious fact that hardwood prices have tanked since 2005 obscures the less obvious one that it’s really only the high-end woods that have tumbled. In constant 2001 dollars, the highend woods (cherry, red oak, sugar maple) have dropped 43 percent since the summer of 2001, while the low-end hardwoods (yellow birch, white birch, red maple, white ash) are down only 11 percent. Solid-cherry bedsteads and oak-floored living rooms are less in demand when the mortgage payment itself is called into question.
The prudent landowner might be tempted to shift management focus away from the risky returns of the high end for the greater predictability of the low end. The problem with this conclusion, besides the ecological reality that you can’t exactly choose the composition of tree species growing on your land, is that it’s often the occasional “golden maple” (see our mill receipt article on page 24) that makes a job worthwhile. Birch and ash and soft maple may cover their costs, but oak and cherry ice the cake.
Still, for those landowners growing birch and ash and soft maple, it’s nice to know that the cake is holding its value.