B S (Barry Shiver) on Forestry November 22, 2013

Estimate the value of timber on your landIf you are a forester you have undoubtedly had the experience of having someone, often a relative, ask you, " How much is that tree worth in timber?" Usually the tree in question is large. The first time this happened to me, I was a young forestry student and I happened to be studying mensuration. We had covered Scribner, Doyle, and International board foot log rules. Of course, I had none of that material with me in South Georgia. I did remember a class discussion that for 16 ft logs, the board foot volume Doyle simplified to (d-4)2 and thus I had a chance to grossly estimate the volume of the large yellow poplar that confronted me.

As I recall, the tree had about 3 logs in it before the stem portion broke into a multi-stemmed crown. The d in the equation is scaling diameter which is the inside bark diameter at the small end of the log. So determining how much that tree was worth required estimating the inside bark diameter at about 17 ft, 33 ft, and 49 ft assuming 1 ft for stump, using the equation with each scaling diameter, summing the results, dividing by 1000 to get thousand board feet (Mbf) and multiplying by a reasonable stumpage value in dollars per Mbf. Still with me??

In today's world, with today's computing, we can estimate the value of trees measured in an inventory very closely. We can merchandise the stem in different ways or compare stem merchandising to one top diameter versus whole tree chipping to a different top diameter. In the southern U. S. we have also moved on from board feet value for sawtimber to value in tons for sawtimber. Back to the story… How much is that tree worth in timber?

I fooled around for probably 10 minutes before blurting out an answer. The landowner just smiled, spit some Beechnut on the ground, and allowed as how he wished he had 1000 acres of trees just like that one. Since then, when asked how much is that tree worth in timber, I have learned to be much more glib. Something like, "Well that is a nice big tree. Timber prices vary all the time, but that tree is probably worth $50-$75, if you had enough like it to justify a logger coming to cut it. With just the one tree, it is not worth anything!" This almost always satisfies. It also instills more confidence in the person who asked the question, how much is that tree worth in timber versus staring at the tree and working out seemingly complicated mathematics over several minutes while everyone waits. But it also brings up the question, "in a stand of older trees, how much are those trees worth?" The table below will put you in the ballpark of the value of an older tree. I used 50 ft of merchantable sawlog height, natural loblolly pine weights, and the value/tree varies with the prices shown in the table for price/ton.

Obviously, it takes a large dbh tree (for southern pines), a reasonably long merchantable section, and a high stumpage value to achieve a value of $100 or more per tree. Most of the very valuable trees grow in older natural stands and there are fewer and fewer of them. Some of these might have five or six merchantable 16 foot logs in them. Then again, having 40 plantation trees per acre that are worth $50 each on average, results in a stumpage value of $2000/acre. I'd like to have 1000 acres just like that one!

Value per tree ($) assuming 50 ft of merchantable length for the dbh and different values per ton.

Dbh $20 $30 $40
18 $33 $50 $66
20 $40 $60 $81
22 $48 $72 $96
24 $56 $84 $112
26 $65 $98 $130
28 $74 $112 $149
30 $84 $127 $169

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Barry Shiver welcomes your comments on this article or share your similar experiences.


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