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Choosing a Logging Contractor

Some simple steps to ensure a positive experience.

One of the best ways to have a successful timber harvest is to work with a licensed, consulting forester who can help you navigate the process of choosing a logging contractor. Foresters can help ensure that forest management on your land is in your best interests; whether your interests are taking care of wildlife habitat, keeping forests healthy, staying in compliance with Current Use, or simply meeting state and federal regulations and getting paid fairly for any harvested wood.  Vermont's Landowner Guides for a Successful Timber Harvest helps describe the role of foresters and logging contractors during forest management activity. Foresters are required to be licensed in Vermont - you can verify a license with the Office of Professional Regulation - Find a Professional search.

If you are not working with a licensed, consulting forester for your timber harvest, you can be assured that the vast majority of Vermont logging contractors are true professionals. However, risks remain and it is important to be an informed seller, especially if you are approached with an unsolicited offer to buy your forest products. Here are a few steps to help protect yourself when choosing a logging contractor:

1. Search the internet for their name and business name. 

This may seem obvious, but this step is often overlooked. A quick search can turn up complaints, online reviews, news articles, etc. 

2. Search the Vermont Judiciary and Environmental Enforcement records. 

Searching the Vermont Judiciary records will alert you to small claims court filings and more. Current and past environmental enforcement actions by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Natural Resources Board (NRB) are available on their websites: DEC Enforcement and NRB Enforcement.

3. Ask for recent references and whether they have any certifications/trainings.

A professional will be happy to provide you with names of landowners they have recently worked with and their contact information. When speaking with references for a logging contractor, here are some questions to ask:

  • Did the contractor fulfill verbal and written obligations?
  • Did they get the job done within the specified time limit? If not, why not?
  • Did the contractor communicate well? Were they flexible in responding to your needs?
  • Was the contractor careful to avoid damage to trees, roads, fences, bridges?
  • Were you paid as agreed by both parties?
  • Was the site left in good condition when the job was done?
  • Would you use them for future harvests? Why or why not?

Logging contractors are not required by Vermont law to be licensed, certified, or registered, but there are voluntary logger education, training, and certification programs in which many logging contractors choose to participate such as the Vermont Logger Education to Advance Professionalism (LEAP) Program and Master Logger.

4. Carefully prepare and review contract documents before signing.

A contract allows both the buyer and seller to see in writing what is expected of them. A well-written contract clearly defines the conditions of the agreement and responsibilities for performance and expenses. A poorly written contract can obligate the landowner to sell their wood with few protections to ensure the landowner's interests are protected.  Proper contracts are legally binding and help to clearly spell out the expectations and responsibilities of both parties.  

Do not rush to sign a contract. Review and discuss the language contained in the harvest contract with your consulting forester and/or logging contractor on site before signing the contract. You may also want to consult with your attorney as selling your timber can represent a significant financial transaction. Ask questions to clarify contract obligations or specifications you do not fully understand. 

A sample timber sale contract is available here. More information on contracts can be found in Section 1.7 of the Voluntary Harvesting Guidelines

5. Get insurance documentation before the logging contractor starts working.

Logging is one of the most difficult and dangerous occupations in the United States. The risks involved in logging include accidents resulting in injury, death, equipment damage, and property damage. 

A landowner could be held liable if an accident occurs on their property during a contracted timber harvest operation. Before any timber harvest operation, it is important to receive documentation of what insurance policies a logging contractor has to protect themselves and you as the owner of the land. Logging contractors should have insurance covering:

  • Workers' Compensation: protects the logging contractor in case of an accident that results in injury or death of the logging contractor or one of their employees.
  • General Liability: landowners should be listed on their logging contractor's general commercial liability insurance policy as an "additional insured party." 

Ask for insurance certificates from the logging contractor's insurance companies that certify that the insurance cannot be canceled during the timber harvest unless a 30-day advance notice is sent to the landowner by certified mail. For guidance on important considerations, visit the "Workers Comp: Resources for Landowners" webpage.

What to do if you feel you have been taken advantage of by a logging contractor

If you think a logging contractor has violated a written contract to harvest timber on your land, you should consult with your attorney.

Environmental Enforcement Officers with the Department of Environmental Conservation investigate and document any alleged violation of Vermont's environmental permits, rules, regulations, and statutes within their jurisdiction. If you are concerned about water quality, wetland, or other environmental violations, contact your local Environmental Enforcement Officer.

You should know that Vermont has a civil timber trespass law that provides damages to owners if a person cuts down, fells, destroys, removes, injures, damages, or carries away any timber or forest product without permission. In Vermont, timber trespass can be a crime if a person knowingly or recklessly cuts down, fells destroys, removes, injures, damages or carries away any timber or forest product without permission from the owner. Criminal penalties for timber trespass can include imprisonment and/or substantial fines.

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