When foresters and assessors examine a stand of timber to determine its potential value, this is known as timber cruising. There are a wide variety of reasons to request a cruising on a stand of forest, from a desire to get an accurate estimate of the value of the land, to fulfilling the mandates of an ongoing forest management plan. This process is usually conducted by trained and licensed foresters or timber professionals.
Timber cruising involves selecting a representative sample from a stand of forest and noting the predominant species, their height and diameter, and average quality. While cruising, a forester will also think about issues which may come up during timber harvesting, like threats to animal species which might be nesting in the trees, the ease of access to the site, and the potential for erosion as trees are removed from the site. Once all of these factors have been accounted for, an accurate estimate of the total value of the timber can be made.
One of the main reasons to ask a forester to go timber cruising is to determine the potential value of the timber on a site if it is felled and sold. These types of assessments are always done before logging is scheduled on a site, and they are typically also performed when a tract of timbered land changes hands. People who are not experienced in the timber industry would be well-advised to request an assessment of their timbered land before they sell it, to ensure that they get the maximum possible value.
Foresters also use timber cruising to keep an eye on forest growth and on the health of the forest. Many forest management plans specify regularly scheduled cruising to monitor the conditions in the forest. This process can reveal things like storm damage, pest infestations, and illegal logging, and it can also be used to determine how quickly trees are growing, and when those trees might be ready for harvest.
Before a timber cruising expedition can start, a forester usually spends some time searching through the deed records in the area, to ensure that he or she knows where the boundaries of the land are. Once the boundaries are clearly established, the forester can head out into the woods with measuring equipment and a logbook to record specific vital statistics. Timber cruising can take several days, especially in a large stand of forest, and in the process, foresters may also mark boundaries with survey stakes or tape for future reference.