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Benefits of Forest Owner Groups

A Forest Owner Group can help achieve economies of scale and provide shared services

Thousands of landowners have established a forest since the early nineties. Many of these forests now require first thinning.

Why should I thin my forest?

As a forest matures, trees start to compete with one another for light, nutrients and water. At this stage, a percentage of the crop must be removed to allow the remaining trees to grow into quality straight stems for timber production. This operation is known as first thinning and the trees removed are typically used to produce MDF/OSB board or woodchip for heat.

Forest owners are encouraged to thin their plantations but there is only a small window of opportunity, as the stability of the crop can be compromised if thinning is not carried out on time. The taller the trees become, the risk of windthrow intensifies.

I am finding it difficult to get my plantation thinned

Forest owners are finding it difficult sometimes to single-handedly thin their plantations as the cost of harvesting and transportation can outweigh the financial returns on an individual basis. There is little tradition or experience of private harvesting in the country which can be daunting for first-time forest owners. Many questions remain unanswered and in some cases the timeframe for thinning can pass. Some of these obstacles are addressed by neighbouring forest owners forming a forest owner group.

A forest owner group can help achieve economies of scale and provide shared services. Prices associated with harvesting, transporting and road construction can be shared and therefore reduced. It is easier to negotiate a reduction in the costs associated with thinning if larger quantities of material are sold. This structure is more attractive to purchasers as a consistent supply of timber can be obtained without the complexities of dealing with several individual owners. A group approach will also give owners the confidence to make more informed decisions about their plantations as learning from one another is a key component.

How can a group benefit me as a forest owner?

Forest owners regularly comment that they were unaware of other members had forests prior to joining the local forest owner group even though they may have met at the local marts selling cattle. As a forest owner, it is important to be conscious of the forest owners in your area as there is a high probability that you will need to join together to harvest and extract timber in the future.

Although the volume of timber available in a region may be large enough to justify carrying out group thinning; gaining access to the timber is often the key. Neighbouring forest owners can benefit by sharing resources, linking individual forest roads and by making joint forest road applications. This gives members an adequate extraction track to get timber to the roadside in addition to a well constructed loading bay for a haulage lorry to safely load timber.

Forest owner groups also act as very effective information networks by sharing information and resources. Forest owner groups can organise forest visits building confidence and familiarising forest owners with the concept of thinning and timber marketing. Such meetings and excursions also help to build valuable relationships.

For contact details of your nearest forest owner group, have a look at A Guide to Forest Owner Groups in Ireland (PDF 1.3 MB).