Predictably, the use of woodland for economic gain is a thorny subject. Management of forests for profit raises the ugly spectre of deforestation and habitat loss. As I’ve tried to explain in other articles, management of woodlands does not have to result in environmental or social problems, in fact it can have the opposite result.

But, is it worthwhile? Do we have to treat forestry as an activity where money goes in and environmental and social benefits come out, or can we at least fund woodland management from the sale of timber?

As always with this sort of question, the answer depends on a lot of factors. However, it may well be that (in England at least) the answer is yes; or certainly not a definitive no.

I was recently asked to do a feasibility study looking at active management of a suite of woodland blocks owned by a local council in the south of England. At first glance, conventional forestry operations for sawmillable (if that’s a word) material were unlikely to be particularly economic; but then we looked at production of biomass fuel, in particular logs.

We extracted a number of assumptions from various sources (but mainly FC) about harvesting cost, log price, and the mean standing volume of timber in broadleaf woodland; and made a conservative estimate of the amount of material available for fuel (not waste or other uses) of about 60% of standing timber volume. This resulted in an estimated value of green wood of around £120 per tonne at roadside. Now, we do need to bear in mind that this £120 has to include all processing, drying and delivery costs, so we aren’t talking about unmanaged broadleaf woodland as a gold mine. However, it does seem strange though that more woodland owners don’t see active management as a viable option.

You can find a more detailed case study here.


Will Rolls is an independent consultant with expertise in forestry, biomass and sustainability, with a strong personal interest in developing sustainable systems and practices. This article originally appeared on LinkedIn here