From a Serious Skeptic of Forestry to one of our Biggest Fans
Yesterday, I gave a little background on a colorful character named Ed Harriman, my grandpa, now today I will tell about one of my first clients after starting Woodland Management Service 26 years ago.
During and after college I spent some time working for the US Forest Service in different parts of the country, like Northern Idaho, New Mexico, and flying all around the west fighting occasional forest fires.
My last job before returning to Wisconsin was in Michigan where I was working as a Procurement Forester, and getting a lesson in why every landowner NEEDS to have their own forester whenever selling timber.
I made it back to Wisconsin in December of 1988, just in time to start my new business with the New Year.
One of my plans as I build my business was to spend a few days each month at grandpa’s place, he was getting old by now and I wanted to hear more of his stories before it was too late.
Grandpa was not too excited about me getting a forestry degree, though he was happy that I was the first in the family to go to college and get a degree.
Getting a Forestry degree, made him nervous that I would get a job with the DNR, which he and his friends referred to as standing for Damn Near Russia.
I assured him that I was not working for the DNR, yet we are required to follow many of the requirements set down by the DNR. After explaining what our business does he was not yet convinced that it was a good idea, as he put it, “there isn’t any money in trees, never has been and never will be, just haven’t had time to get them all bulldozed and turned into farmland yet.”
In his nearly 80 years he had nearly cleared all of his land of the native forests, with only about 70 acres yet to clear.
And as evidence of his point, he told me that a year earlier he had a logger in on his land and his sisters’ land who paid them each around $1200 for the best 60 trees in each of their forests, hardly worth messing with. And the logger told them there was nothing else left worth taking.
Well my suspicions were confirmed when I went out to the woods to take a look, the logger had indeed hygraded the best veneer quality trees out of the woods, leaving the older inferior trees and the younger trees that were not of sufficient size for his needs.
The value of what the logger took, had it been sold in a fair sale, with a consulting forester involved would have been 10-20 times this amount, definitely enough to make it worthwhile.
Next I explained to grandpa that his woods had indeed been raped of its best mature trees, and that the mature trees that were left needed to go in order to maintain the good genetics of his forest.
Also, there are more than enough young and medium aged trees to fill in and that after this harvest there would be enough trees to continue to have a well-planned harvest every 10 years here after.
Well grandpa did not believe me, but said go ahead; I will believe it when I see it.
So we marked a light thinning to get rid of the junk trees that the first logger should have taken, and netted my grandpa $13,000 for the junk trees that the first logger did not want to waste his time on.
Not only did we impress grandpa with a pile of money for the junk trees, but the removal of these trees allowed enough room in the forest for the medium trees to grow much faster and be ready for a harvest in ten years.
And ten years later when we went in to mark our next thinning in this forest, the trees that we had set up for success were worth much more than the last thinning with a bounty of over $30k for a slight thinning.
Of course this time we did not take out the best mature trees, we took out the lesser quality trees that needed to go, leaving the best quality to lay down seeds for the future generations of this wonderful forest. A drastic turnaround from the path that grandpa’s forest was on before he became a fan of forestry.
Grandpa did not live long enough for that next thinning but he did become a raving fan of what we do, and the respect that he had in the area, and his enthusiasm to tell everyone what a good deal he made really helped our business to get off the ground.
Grandpa went from a serious skeptic of Forestry to one of our biggest fans after this sale and many others that he witnessed in his final years.