While it’s not strictly a part of forestry itself, property line mapping is an important part of the process of developing a forest management strategy and legally harvesting timber. Once we have clearly marked boundaries and assessed exactly what areas we are working with, we can better assess the needs of your wooded land and how best to manage it for the future.
Understanding Your Deed
When you purchase or inherit a property, you are given a deed that outlines the property verbally. These deeds are recorded with your local Registry of Deeds. Not only does this document describe the boundaries of your property, but it also gives key information such as the state, county, and town where your property is located and the names of the previous and current owners. If the document isn’t filed with the Registry of Deeds, it isn’t legally valid and you may lose your property. Once it’s filed, you can get a new copy of your deed if you lose it.
Unfortunately, because many deeds have not been updated generationally to reflect the changing landscape and landmarks, it’s quite possible your deed will be difficult, or even impossible to interpret correctly on your own. Typical boundary markers in our area include stone walls (which may have been purposely moved or collapsed), streams or rivers (which meander over decades and centuries), roads (which may be rerouted when paved or be lost to the woods when abandoned), fences (which often no longer exist), corner markers (which can fall over, rust away, or be moved intentionally), and blazed lines (which are sometimes, but not always still visible a few decades later).
Because so many deeds rely on unreliable markers, rather than coordinates, specific measurements of distance, or other clear and objective markers, understanding the actual boundaries of your property can be very challenging and require a surveyor to confirm. Having a clearly marked boundary before assessing your land for forestry helps a great deal because of the rules around harvesting timber, however, it is not essential and a good forester will still be able to assess.
Walking and Marking Your Property Line
Thankfully, this isn’t a new problem, and often previous generations and current owners have done a good job of dealing with it the best they can. If you’re lucky, your boundary has been marked with high-quality paint on trees, stones, and other visible locations along your boundary line, clearly denoting where your land ends. Refreshing this paint and adding blazed lines is typically the best way to maintain this well-defined boundary.
If you do not have this lucky situation, you will need to contract a forest management company like Tall Pines Forest Management to assess the lines and remark if needed. If necessary they can advise if a survey is needed, which most times it is not. Here are a few tips for the best results.
- Use paint specifically formulated for marking boundaries
- When blazing and painting, mark both sides of a tree if the line passes through the middle of it, if it’s only adjacent, mark only the side proximate to the line
- Avoid blazing valuable trees as it can be a weak point that causes long term damage such as fungal infections
- Try to make marks large enough to be easily visible and clear so that accidental trespassing is less likely
- If you need to clear saplings or other plants, be sure to cut their boughs as close and parallel to the ground as possible as pointed stems can be a danger
- Make sure corner posts are built to last and not made of wood or other biodegradable materials, as this can lead to the dissolution of the corner post and confusion in the future
- Proper painting lasts about 10 years, so you will need to repaint periodically
If when walking your line and marking your boundaries you find evidence that someone has trespassed on your land or cut down some of your trees, contact Tall Pines Forest Management and refer to Maine Forest Service if needed. They investigate complaints and mitigate your damages, taking viable cases to court that can result in remuneration. If found guilty, the defendant will likely have to cover legal fees and possibly pay for a survey.
Mapping your Land
Mapping your land once you have clearly defined boundaries is key for planning your forest management strategy. A good forestry company will be able to use advanced satellite data, more refined than what you can get from Google Earth, and robust GIS to mark your land for easy reference to better help you understand and visualize your forest management strategy and specific uses. This will also make it easier for your forester to identify opportunities and understand the broader woodland landscape beyond your land, so as to better analyze the impact your forest management might have on the broader environment.
An experienced forest management company like Tall Pines Forest Management will be able to help you map your property, or refer a surveyor if needed.
Maine Rules and Laws Regarding Timber Harvesting
Maine law protects neighboring landowners from “timber trespass” and any damages that result from timber harvesting. If you’re pursuing the harvest of timber on your land, you should understand and follow the laws around harvesting timber near property lines, timber trespass, and slash disposal requirements. You should meet with your forester to discuss these rules in more depth. Here is an abridged list of rules to give you a general idea of what needs to happen.
- You must clearly mark any boundary lines within 200 feet of any harvesting before any harvesting begins. This is still a good idea even if your land parcel is less than 5 acres in size in case of future trespassing.
- There are specific guidelines on disposing of slash resulting from timber harvesting
- Failure to comply with these regulations may result in legal consequences including fines and legal liability for accidents or property damage due to your negligence that can result in fiscal or punitive consequences
When you’re ready to start this important process you should find a local forester like Tall Pines Forest Management. We are happy to help you find the best solution for mapping and marking your property lines. Check out our website to learn more about the woodlot assessment process.