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Investing Your Marcellus Dollars

Posted: June 18, 2011

Re-invest your Marcellus windfall into your woodlands.

Many landowners have benefited financially by the gas development in the Marcellus Shale area. It can be extremely beneficial for you to manage and invest this money properly. There have been numerous courses by Penn State Extension and private investment companies on ways this income can be managed.

One investment opportunity that could be considered is to reinvest a portion of this income back into your property. There are likely a number of things a forest landowner has thought about doing but was deterred by “I just don’t have the money for that right now.”  These re-investments can improve the value of wildlife habitat, value of recreational opportunities and value of future timber resources.

Here are some examples of how you can reinvest in your woodlands.

•    “Pre-commercial thinning” – Thinning is often held off until the trees being cut can be marketed as pulp or small sawlogs.  Pre-commercial thinning, that is, thinning before trees can be marketed, in high quality stands can improve growth and lead to an earlier financial maturity of such a stand.

•    Constructing recreational trails - Many landowners may want to construct trails for walking or biking in their woodlot. These trails can improve the enjoyment and accessibility of your woodland.

•    Obtaining a stewardship or woodland management plan – This should actually be at the top of your things to do. A plan will solidify your wants (goals), identify and describe management areas (units), make recommendations and timing of activities for each of these management units and provide various maps of your property. A plan will give you “direction” in caring for your woodland.

•    Allow you to improve or correct problems in different parts of your woodlot – For example, maybe you have a road that needs some improvement to prevent erosion or improve accessibility and protect water resources.

•    Improve wildlife habitat – You may want to construct brush piles, install food plots, improve water sources for wildlife and plant trees or shrubs utilized by wildlife. The list is almost endless.

•    Obtain a property survey and mark property boundaries – It is surprising how many woodland owners don’t really know where their boundaries actually are. Keep in mind that old fence lines or rock walls are very often not on the actual property boundaries. Having your boundaries surveyed and marked by a professional land surveyor can reduce trespass (accidental and deliberate) and help in preventing misunderstandings among neighbors.

•    Controlling invasive and interfering plants – In almost all woodlots there are “undesirable” plants (undesirable plants include plants that interfere with objectives) or invasive species. You may have that area of striped maple that prevents regeneration of a portion of your woodlot. You may have that pesky patch of multiflora rose and autumn olive that is causing you all sorts of problems. Managing these unwanted plants can be expensive and a challenge.

The list of possible activities is almost endless. Keep in mind, however, that investing some of your “Marcellus  gas money” back into your woodlot can lead to increased income from a future timber sale, increased enjoyment of your woods and, most importantly, help maintain the overall health of your part of Pennsylvania’s forest.

Written by Robert Hansen, D.F.
Extension Educator, Forest Resources