Blog :: 01-2015

Wood Supply and Diversifying your Woodlot

At first glance forest products markets look a little glum in Maine. A lot of the airtime on the news is directed at mill closures and declining markets. What the news doesn't always tell you are the new opportunities and investments that are being made in some of the more successful mills and other global marketing opportunities that are opening up. Regardless of the market conditions, it is always a good idea to keep different eggs in different baskets and not rely solely on a few markets. This also works for the species and quality of trees you maintain on our woodlot. Managing your woodlot is much like managing your investment portfolio. The more you diversify your investments the less risk you assume. Trees of various species and conditions (mostly better quality) will give you more options in the future to take advantage of markets and capitalize on your investment. Not only does diversity in the structure and species of your woodlot improve your ability to take advantage of a variety of markets, but it also benefits other management goals such as creating habitat for a broader range of wildlife.

 

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Maine Sustainable Forest Land

 

Even aged management of your property (maintaining trees of mostly one age class) also decreases your diversity and lengthens the time between harvests and your income from those harvests. If you harvested the majority of your trees in one entry it could be 40-60 years before you could enter those stands again for treatment. Uneven or multi-aged management allows for 3 or more age classes to be grown at one time. With this management strategy a landowner could enter a woodlot every 15-20 years and take advantage of certain markets more often. Maintaining trees of varying sizes and ages allows you to selectively harvest ones that are mature while growing the next crop at the same time thus decreasing the time between entries. Of course not all woodlots are created equal and sometimes our options are limited. At times a mixture of both strategies should be applied depending on the conditions of a given stand of trees. Whichever strategy you choose for your property, take the time to decide what your long term goals are and plan carefully to maximize the full benefit of your property.

Maine Land Market Trending Up

If you have been thinking about selling all or part of your Maine land, now might be the right time. In the past 2 weeks we have noticed a marked increase in the volume of inquiries and offers for our land listings. A quick check of the MLS land listings in the State of Maine show an increase of nearly 12% in the number of pending listings from 1/1/15 - 1/22/15 versus the same time period in 2014. A very positive indicator this January is the average days on market of the new year pending listings. This time period has decreased by over 140 days! A statistical change of note is average lot size. So far this year the number has decreased to approximately 14 acres, nearly half the acreage from the 2014 pending sales of land. With only 7 of the 2015 pending listings successfully closed, it is too early to compare the sale price to list price ratio, but the average list price increased by about 8% to over $103,000 in 2015. Sales are definitely looking up across the state. The number of transactions in early 2015 are up nearly 35% from the same time period in 2013. If a sale is in your future you need to know that every market is different with prices varying greatly from county to county, even from town to town. Buyer preferences for lot sizes, locations, offers of owner financing, permitted uses, access and other factors will determine the potential value for your property. Call us to get an estimate of your land value today.

SWOAM Turns 40

On Wednesday Peter and I attended the annual meeting of the Small Woodlands Owners Association of Maine. This year marks the 40th year for the non-profit group. SWOAM was formed in 1975 by a group of non-industrial forestland owners interested in sharing knowledge about how to better manage their private woodlands to improve tree quality, wildlife habitat and other topics important to Maine land owners.

This year's annual meeting featured an energetic Col. Rick LaFlamme of the Maine Warden Service explaining the New Landowner Relations Program being implemented by his department. The Warden Service, under Rick's leadership, promises to proactively assist Maine's landowners to deal with litter, property damage and the lack of respect shown by the few who don't appreciate the open access offered by many of our state's private land owners.

Maine author and outdoor expert George Smith spoke about his new book "A Life Lived Outdoors" and his good humor and obvious passion for Maine entertained those attending.

Hemant Pendse, University of Maine professor and Director of the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute gave a fascinating talk on new uses for wood including cross laminated wood, uses for nano cellulose, making liquid fuels such as jet fuel from wood and the potential for markets for wood derived sugars. The work of Dr. Pendse and others from the University of Maine, in collaboration with other colleges around the country and private businesses promises to keep Maine and the US the leaders in innovation for new forest products.

The after lunch session included Maine humorist Gary Crocker who kept the group laughing preventing that after meal downer. Following Gary, a panel of four discussed the future of Maine lumber and wood using mills in the state. The panel included members from the sawmill industry, paper industry, timberland appraisal and private consultants. Jason Brochu, of Pleasant River Lumber Company discussed the need for Maine forestland owners to produce quality saw logs and Donna Cassese, Managing Director of Wood Resource Strategy at Sappi Fine Paper told us how her mills have stayed profitable with niche products such as dissolving pulp.

The day was wrapped up with an interesting presentation by forest pathologist Bill Ostrofsky of the Maine Forest Service. Bill talked about well-known pests such as the spruce budworm and emerald ash borer. Bill also told us about a new strain of white pine blister rust fungus and hemlock shoot blight and how to identify these diseases.

Peter and I have been members of SWOAM for a short time. I can say as a Maine woodland owner you certainly get a good value from membership. The monthly newsletter, annual meeting/learning event, more than 50 workshops per year, legislative updates concerning land ownership and many other benefits more than offset the cost of membership.

To learn more about SWOAM, check out the website at http://www.swoam.org

Mapping Maine land with Google Earth

If you now own Maine land or are looking for acres for sale, Google Earth can help make your ownership or investment search more productive. With the 3D views and the ability to zoom in our out at different angles of approach, you will gain new knowledge about how your land relates to the surrounding terrain.

If you do not have Google Earth it is a free download and the link to it is HERE.

A feature of Google Earth that can help you map your property is the polygon tool. The following is a quickstep by step process to get you started using this tool.

Google Earth polygon tool

First open Google Earth and locate the area of interest (AOI). If you are brand new to Google Earth you can type in the town you are looking for in the upper left corner of the screen under SEARCH. Zoom in on the location of your property. It helps to have a good idea of where the property is.

Next, look for the tool bar on the top of the screen and locate the add polygon tool. Click on the tool and you can begin to draw lines around the approximate location of your piece of Maine. Begin by clicking your mouse on a known corner of your property. Move the cursor to the next corner and click the mouse. You will notice the lines are beginning to form the boundary, when finished selecting all corners you will have a shape of your lot.

Screenshot 2015-01-06 17.27.19

To make it easier to see select Google Earth - New Polygon box select style, color and change filled + outlined to outlined. You can also use this tool to change the line color, thickness and opacity.  Use the description tab to name the polygon and describe what it is.

Once you have the polygon done you can right click on it and save it to your computer. File type can be a kml or a kmz, which is a zipped kml. This can be emailed and viewed by others with Google Earth on their computer.

Update - Ban on Drones for Land Photography Continues

As we suspected the FAA is not going to meet their goal for drafting drone (UAV) rules and regulations for Maine and the rest of the country. The agency has announced a delay until 2017. We discussed the topic of Drone Use last month. The following link with news of the update was sent to us by the Realtors Land Institute and provided by the National Association of Realtors.

FAA Drone Rules Delayed to 2017