Woodlots and Boundary Lines
Posted: August 27, 2009
27, 2009- For Immediate Release
Contact: Allyson Muth, Phone: 814-865-3208, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Woodlots and Boundary Lines
To put up a fence, I recently had my house lot surveyed. Now, I'm thinking a lot about the boundary lines delimiting what I own. My boundary lines weren't readily apparent; so, to prevent encroachment on my neighbors, I hired a professional surveyor to locate corners and help me identify my spot. On a larger scale, the property lines that define what a forest landowner owns are just as important. These lines define the acreage and are critically important at times of sale, timber harvest, easement development, and impact trespass and encroachment.
In the eastern United States, property boundaries were laid out on the metes and bounds system, relying on geologic and other natural features to define boundary lines and to serve as markers. A "metes" is a boundary determined by a straight line, specified by a distance and orientation between end points. "Bounds" indicates a more general boundary description such as along a watercourse or an existing roadway. Corners are permanent markers indicating a convergence of property lines. These are often iron pipes, rebar, rock piles, or monuments of other sorts. In the forested landscape, witness trees, most usually three, point to the corner marker with three vertical painted blazes indicating the direction to the monument. Sometimes a tree located directly on the corner will be painted with a large X.
With large (and small) acreages of forestland, corners are thousands of feet apart and not within line of sight. As a forest landowner, maintaining boundary lines is the best form of protection from trespass, encroachment, and sometimes timber theft, especially when activities are occurring on adjacent landowners' properties.
As summer rolls on into fall, and forest landowners are looking for projects that don't entail harvesting timber in a depressed market, boundary line maintenance is an annual or, at a minimum, every five years project.
The best time to start maintaining your property lines is just after completing a survey, usually at the time of property acquisition, but this is not always practical. Other options may be to identify/maintain a line along a recently surveyed or harvested adjoining property (assuming they know where the boundary is). If there is no recent survey, a landowner can find the location of property corners from a deed description, and then seek historic evidence (old fences, old blazes on trees) to re-identify lines. In the absence of clear indication of property lines, the best alternative is to retain a surveyor to identify and/or establish corners and mark lines for you. Always seek professional surveying advice if there are any doubts about a line's location.
Blazes are the marks on trees that point to the property line. It involves scoring the bark with a machete or axe at eye level and painting. The score is deep enough to impact bark growth, but not so deep as to penetrate the cambial layer and cause a wound. The blaze is then painted to enhance visibility. Proper blazes last many decades and are common across forested landscapes. If ever you are repainting blazes, do not paint over old blazes -- repaint only the outer edges to make them more visible. Leave old blazes as supporting evidence of the original location of the property line.
Blazed trees should be close enough that the line is visible to the next tree along the line of sight in each direction, but not overly apparent (i.e., every tree on or close to the line does not need a blaze). For trees, just off the property line, a single painted blaze on the side facing the line is common. Trees occurring directly on line receive two blazes -- one of each side where the line goes "into" and "out of" the tree. Avoid marking any trees further than three feet from the line.
Some landowners like to leave a trail cleared of brush around their property lines. This facilitates the walking of the boundaries and maintenance of lines. Others prefer to draw less attention for aesthetic reasons. Regardless... Get to know your boundaries. It's all part of being a good steward of your land.
The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management for private landowners. For a list of free publications, call 1-800-235-WISE (toll-free), send e-mail to email@example.com , or write to: Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 320 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in partnership with the Penn State's Forest Resources Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.
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