Timber law focuses upon the rules and practices for owning, growing, harvesting, buying and selling, and making products from trees on forested land. It encompasses the relatively unique application of a broad range of environmental, natural resource, real estate, land use, contract, employment, insurance and other commercial business law, as well as tax and estate planning rules to forest land ownership and management and transport and manufacture of cut timber into wood and paper products.
Regulatory regimes that can apply include federal endangered species, clean water and clean air acts; hazardous material, insect, and disease control, and import/export laws; differing rules for management and use of federal and state timber-producing lands; state forest practices acts; and local county and municipal land use and other ordinances. Leasing, contracting, and regulatory rules pertaining to mining, oil and gas, recreation use, water rights, and, more recently, biomass energy may apply to forest land management and activities, as well as the particular requirements applicable to timber sales, harvest, and forest treatment operations. Real estate issues include subdivision, easemen,t and other access issues, adverse possession, and boundary disputes. Tort and criminal law issues include timber and land trespass, vandalism, and recreation use and fire liability. A range of safety, employment, and other operational requirements apply to timber management and harvest activities and forest products manufacture. Choice of business entity, tax considerations, and inheritance rules can be instrumental in planning and management for ownership, purchase, sale, or lease of forest lands and timber.
Individual timber law practitioners are likely to specialize or focus upon a portion of the many subjects and categories of substantive law described above, although they may have a working knowledge of much more. Some lawyers practicing in the timber arena may similarly focus on litigation, while others will concentrate on transactional counseling and representation. The field encompasses rulemaking, legislation, and other policy-level practice as well. Forest industry enterprises, investments, trade, and related disputes, transactions and other legal work have for many years included large international as well as interstate dimensions. More sophisticated, complex or high-value matters may require a team of attorneys with paralegal and other support to achieve quality, cost-effective results.
Robert A. Maynard, Forest Industry Practice Group Leader