Blogging Logging 10 – Timber sales

The number and size of timber sales are important measures for understanding both the economics of logging and the effects of harvesting on ecological outcomes such as fragmentation. Economically, smaller timber sales result in higher costs as loggers must move equipment more frequently and spend more time on procuring timber. Ecologically, harvesting operations create new “patches” in the landscape that will have a different age and habitat characteristics compared to the surrounding forests.

The median (middlemost) number of timber sales completed was 7 in both 2003 and 2010, while the average was slightly lower in 2010 at 10.3 versus 10.8 in 2003.


Our data indicate that the median timber sale size shifted from between 21 and 40 acres in 2003 to between 41 and 80 acres in 2010. These wide ranges reflect how the data were collected. Respondents were asked to report timber sales by size categories* (i.e., 0-5, 6-10, 11-20, etc.).


This shift is most evident, though, when looking at the distribution of sales by size categories. There is a noticeable shift toward larger sales, with sizable increases in the portion of sales in the 80-160 acre and 160+ acreage classes from 2003 to 2010 and corresponding dips in the smaller size categories. Harvesting on more, larger sales should be beneficial to loggers, as costs tend to be lower (all other things being equal). On whose land that occurs is the subject of next week’s post.

Complete index for this series:


  1. Introduction
  2. Harvest systems & production volumes
  3. Profitability & production capacity
  4. Factors affecting profitability
  5. Business demographics
  6. Employees and contractors
  7. Capital investment
  8. Distance and hauling
  9. Certification
  10. Timber sales
  11. Source of timber supply
  12. Timber products and buyers
  13. Interest in biomass harvesting
  14. Survey methods and response
  15. Summary

*Asking respondents to provide specific acreage for each timber sale likely would have resulted in many fewer responses and potentially less reliable findings.

Authors: Mark Rickenbach (UW-Madison/Extension) and Melinda Vokoun (UW-Stevens Point) [contact info at links]

The Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, which is now part of the Wisconsin Energy Institute, provided initial funding for 2011 logging sector survey. Additional support was provided through the Renewable Resources Extension Act and the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program, both of the USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture. We appreciate the assistance of Tom Steele, Grace Maples, and Sarah Traver in helping bring this project to completion.

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