Is There a Way of Earning Money from Forests Without Logging It?
You hear it a lot if you are a forestland owner. “Cut the trees! It’s good for habitat and you can make a lot of money!” Both of those claims might be true and there are definitely a lot of people who can attest to it. But depending on your circumstances, doing a timber harvest might not actually be the best use of your forest. On a more personal level, maybe you just don’t like the idea of it. So how can you start earning money from forests without going through the whole logging process? Shockingly, generating income from woodland is a lot easier than most people think. Of course, your income potential depends on several variables, discussed in more detail below. Here are several ways of making money from natural resources if the whole timber harvest idea isn’t for you.
Income Potential and Considerations
Before you get started earning money from forests, you should make sure you have realistic expectations for your property. Not all parcels are capable of becoming a cash cow, but most should be able to help you earn a nice side income. Some of the things that directly affect it include your location, the type of forest you have, how much land you own, and how ambitious you are.
Location – depending on where your property is located (and what activities you will be doing on it), you could have a harder time making money with it. For example, if it is dependent on being close to customers and you are in a very remote area, you would face a higher time investment and additional gas expenses to get any products to market.
Forest Type – this one also depends on how you will be earning money from forests on your land. If your forests have been damaged by natural events (e.g., storms, fires, etc.) or past logging events (e.g., high grading), you could have a harder time finding ways of making money from the forest. Then again, it is possible to get creative and make money from young or recovering forest types.
Acreage Matters – just like farmland, the more forest you have, the higher your income potential could be. There are simply more resources available in a larger area. But you can manage smaller forests for specific products to get a higher yield from it.
Ambition – whether you call this ambition or availability, this is the most subjective part of the process. The more work you are able to put in, the higher your returns should be. Having a busy job and a family can provide more than a full schedule as is, so make sure to find a balance.
Earning Money from Forests – Non-Traditional Ways
Most people do not know how to make money off nature besides cutting timber. But as we mentioned earlier, there are actually a lot of interesting and unique ways to make money from forestland. Here are a few potential options you could consider.
Leasing Forestland for Hunting
One of the most hands-off (and lucrative) options to earn money from forests is by leasing it out. There are many people looking to lease land for hunting or recreational purposes. If you have plentiful wildlife on your property, it could be a great hunting lease. Or if you have a scenic property with a good trail system, people might lease it to use for biking, skiing, or horseback riding. Again, the size, composition, and quality of your property will all directly influence the lease prices you can expect to get. In an ideal world, the returns would be enough to cover your property taxes so you can continue earning it at no additional cost. How do you know if your land is worth leasing for hunting? Reach out to us and our land and lease specialists can walk you through the process.
Non-Timber Forest Products
This category consists of products that are not related to harvesting timber, as the name suggests. Shockingly, there are a lot of things in the woods worth money if you know what to look for and how to harvest them. Honestly, this is also just a list of outdoor hobbies that make money on the side. Here are just a few ways to make money selling natural products.
Mushrooms – whether you harvest and sell wild mushrooms (e.g., morels, chanterelles, etc.) or set up some logs to grow your own (e.g., oyster, shiitake, etc.), mushrooms are specialty products that can earn a nice income. But you need to know what you’re doing to do it safely.
Syrup – if you have the right tree species, this is a nice specialty product that can help in earning money from forests. Sugar maples are the most commonly tapped species for maple syrup, but you can tap many different species for even more unique syrups and products.
Boughs – technically this does involve some cutting, but it’s on a very small and sustainable scale. During the holiday season, lots of people and markets look for evergreen boughs, birch or red-osier dogwood branches, ground pine, and wintergreen berries to create festive wreaths. Depending on the local market, you can make a lot of money in a short seasonal window selling evergreen boughs.
Fruit– if you have large patches of berries (e.g., raspberry, blackberry, etc.) or some old apple or pear trees, you could make a nice income selling the fruit to farmers markets or directly to consumers. If you manage them well, you can increase your yields.
Cuttings/Seeds – this one takes a little bit of a green thumb and some botanical knowledge, but it can pay off. You can collect seeds or cuttings from tree and shrub species, sell them directly as is, or propagate them and sell them for a higher price in a few years. It doesn’t take much land to grow them either.
A growing practice that might apply to your farm is carbon storing or sequestration. Basically, large companies are legally required to measure the carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases their facilities produce. Similar to wetland mitigation practices, some companies are actually purchasing “carbon credits” to offset their emissions. Plants utilize carbon dioxide to grow, and since many trees can live for decades or even centuries, they store carbon for that duration. Essentially, you get paid to keep your trees growing – talk about earning money from forests in the most literal sense. This practice isn’t extremely common at the moment and the payments aren’t earth-shaking, but it’s something to look into.
Make Money Off the Woods
If you’re interested in earning money from forests without doing a timber harvest, we hope that this list will give you some ideas. If your land isn’t paying for itself in some capacity, you’re likely missing out.
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