Winter Timber Sale

Black walnut harvests can be lucrative, but look to your long-term plan, says experienced forester

Quality and other differences can drive dramatic price differences

(Black walnut grove. Photo courtesy of: Kansas State Research and Extension)

MADISON, Wis. -- Several times per month Forest Data Network receives a question like this from a Wisconsin landowner: “I have a bunch of big black walnut trees in my wood lot. I hear they’re worth a lot of money. Who can I talk to find out what to do with them?”

To help with this we reached out to John Nielsen, a retired DNR forester who works with landowners in the Driftless area of Wisconsin consulting, writing management plans, and setting up timber sales.

“This depends a lot on the goals of the landowner. If the trees are good quality and 20 to 22 inches and the landowner can wait, they should definitely consider doing that,” Nielsen answered. “The logs will put on a lot of board feet as they grow from 22 to 28 inches, but that growth could take 30 years. They also could jump a grade during that period adding even more value.”

“The landowner really should want to be practicing good forestry. That means thinning periodically and making sure they release the high quality trees.”

The range in quality can drive dramatic price differences. An individual tree might range from $500 to $5,000 based on differences in quality and other factors. Nielsen also advises paying attention to other species on the forest parcel.

“You might have oak and black walnut together on the land. Do you harvest both? What’s best for the forest plan after the harvest? All of those things should be taken under consideration,” Nielsen advised.

He also said there can be productive harvests for as few as 7 or 8 trees because of the trees’ high value.

“Small sales might be harder to get cut, you might have to wait for the loggers to be close by. Whether you have a large or small sale, you should get good advice before proceeding and try to get multiple bids for the trees you want to harvest,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen operates Nielsen and Nielsen Forestry in his retirement from the DNR. He says there are good consulting foresters and logging contractors in Southern Wisconsin. But the best first stop when a landowner asks, “Who should I talk to about what to do with my black walnut” is the DNR forester for their county.

To find out yours, you can consult the DNR Forester Directory. Just searcy on Forestry Assistance Locator at dnr.wi.gov.

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