Forest Management 3: Timber Sale Contracts

Photo of a loaded logging truck

In this edition of the Forester Forum


Too often timber harvests are conducted with no more than a nod and a handshake between the parties involved. Although this procedure sometimes works, a written agreement is far better. Besides transacting the sale of timber, a contract also establishes communication, outlines practices to be followed, and clarifies responsibilities. All participants benefit when a foundation is established from the start.

At first glance, preparing a contract might appear difficult, inconvenient, and downright formal. However, with a little help, writing a good sales agreement can be done with ease and satisfaction.

Sample Contracts

Since there is no such thing as a standard, concise, all purpose timber sale agreement, it’s good to start with a handful of examples. A variety of sample contracts can be acquired from your local Idaho Department of Lands office, timber company, soil conservation district, or extension agency. These generic contracts are often used as a basis for building a specific agreement and with them you can create a document tailor-made to fit your harvest situation.

The Document

Let’s look at the substance of a good timber sale contract. Most importantly, it is as short and simple as possible, with clear wording in plain language. The terms are understandable, executable and enforceable. Although such an agreement will not cover every eventuality, it will set some important guidelines.

A checklist is provided below, which highlights appropriate information needed in a complete document.

Framing a Contract

Good sample contracts will address most major issues. Combine the best terms from several samples. Also, see your IDL Private Forestry Specialist for help. Although the PFS cannot write the contract, they can equip you with a menu of terms covering harvest practices and recommend clauses you should consider.

With all this information, you can mix, match, add, delete, or write your own terms of sale. Be careful, more restrictions usually result in higher logging costs. Just include enough requirements to accomplish your objectives and protect your interest.

Have a forester and a lawyer review your draft.

There is safety in an abundance of counselors.


Finally, consider this. Your contract is a tool that protects your interests, conveys your desires, details procedures, and assigns responsibilities. But a successful timber harvest does NOT depend only on a well written document. It depends on communication and implementation. A contract not administered is a tool not used. Keep watch over your harvest operations. Administer your contract to achieve your goals.

Contract Checklist

For the purpose of this article, it is assumed the landowner is the timber owner.

Parties Involved

Performance of Buyer


Property Involved

Harvest Practices

Questions? Find an IDL Private Forestry Specialist

Help is Only a Click Away

The Idaho Department of Lands has more than a dozen Private Forestry Specialists that cover the state and assist private forest landowners and communities with the common goal of improving forest health. Use our interactive map to find a Private Forestry Specialist at an IDL Supervisory Area offices near you. Services include technical and educational assistance to help forest owners maintain their property, create and enhance forest habitat and maximize financial benefits as well as wildfire recovery.