As forests of the eastern United States become fragmented into smaller ownership parcels, there is a growing need for timber harvesting contactors who can economically harvest timber and perform silvicultural operations on small tracts. Traditional large-scale harvesting operators are ill-suited for work on small parcels, due to their high fixed costs. By contrast, small-scale operators, characterized by few workers and low capital investment, offer an opportunity to serve this landowner segment. This paper presents financial and productivity results from a small-scale timber harvesting pilot study conducted on small forested parcels in western Maryland, USA. Acceptable financial performance is possible for these operations, provided that the operator pays close attention to the important factors determining productivity and profitability, including: (1) average tree volume, (2) net delivered price, (3) time utilization, and (4) distance to the site. Although profitable harvesting of saw log quality trees on parcels less than 10 ha is possible, harvesting of small or poor-quality trees remains economically unattractive.
Private forest owners Forest fragmentation Small forest parcels