Call Before You Cut

Here at the conservation district, we see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Recently I witnessed ugly, unfortunately. Soil and water conservation districts statewide are mandated to investigate pollution complaints involving livestock manure and logging operation complaints, so John and I went to check out a complaint about a timber harvest.

A landowner obviously expects some ugliness involved with a timbering operation. Unless the logger uses a helicopter like they do out west, there’s little chance of getting a harvester and skidder in and out of a forest without some tracks. And that’s fair. But without a Timber Harvest Plan, or better yet, a consulting forester, the landowner has little recourse against a logger who blatantly disregards a landowner’s wishes, forest management plan, or any best management practices at all.

The landowner in this case is very distraught about the condition of her forest post-logging operation, and rightly so. She has had trees logged in the past, so she expected some destruction. But the logger did not follow the very basic contract she had signed, and most of her requests were verbal, with no timber harvest plan. The logger took trees that were not marked, he created skid roads up and down the hills instead of using existing haul roads on the contour, he left behind cut trees that he apparently decided were not worth dragging out, pushed tops and trees into the streams, and drove through the streams without any crossings. Her forest sanctuary is a mess, with deep ruts, no erosion controls, and tangles of tree tops. She doesn’t have the resources to take the logger to court, which might not do much good anyway because the contract was so generic. Ohio does not have much regulatory oversight for timber operations, so there’s not much any government agency can do, except educate. And the logger has no interest in trying to rectify the situation, obviously, or he would have observed best management practices while he worked.

We encourage anyone who is approached by a logger to get references and visit past harvest operations. Many loggers will try to rush a sale so the landowner will miss out on the opportunity if not taken immediately. That’s ok, there are lots of loggers out there, and the good ones understand that you are taking time to do the research. The website is a great free resource with information you can trust. Hiring a professional forester and a trained master logger is well worth the expense, and you are likely to profit significantly more from the timber sale, plus it will be done right. Once your forest is destroyed, it’s too late.

For more information about or filing a Timber Harvest Plan, contact the Holmes SWCD office at 330-674-SWCD.


Michelle Wood oversees the day to day operations of the district and the diverse activities offered to promote clean water and healthy soil. With a lifelong passion for the outdoors and a background in communications, she appreciates the conservation district grassroots model which enables the local board and staff to create programs that meet the conservation needs of Holmes County.  Michelle is a member of several statewide committees, including the ODNR Parks Advisory Council and the Clean Ohio Fund Natural Resources Assistance Council.  Contact Michelle at 330-674-2811 or at