Worcester Timberlands is a long-term timber investment opportunity characterized by an attractive species composition, highly-stocked stands providing positive cash flow, and excellent potential for asset appreciation from the timber resource. The ownership, Vermont Land Trust (VLT) acquired the land in 2014 from the Meyer Family, who owned the property since the 1950s. The family sold to VLT with the goal of insuring the property will remain as a long-term forest resource. VLT is currently transferring a conservation easement on the land to the State of Vermont who will oversee the easement terms.
Investment highlights include:
The property is located in north-central Vermont, 12 miles north of the state’s capital city of Montpelier. Both Worcester and Elmore have small village centers with job markets nearby in the larger towns of Morrisville, Stowe, Montpelier and Waterbury.
Route 12 runs north-south through the tract (roughly bisecting the land), providing access to Interstate 89 and Route 2 to the south and Routes 15 and 100 to the north. These major roads provide transportation corridors to regional and Canadian forest product mills from the property.
The region’s landscape is defined by the high-elevation Worcester Range, a 15-mile long, north-south series of mountains, with the property’s adjacent Catamount Brook watershed comprising much of the land west of Route 12.
The property offers developed access at various points along Route 12, covering nearly all of the terrain sloping toward the river that runs along this paved road. Much of the upper slopes of the large Catamount Brook basin located west of Route 12 is accessed by a town road and an internal winter road. The northwestern 270-acre parcel is also accessed by a right-of-way off Route 12.
Much of the eastern terrain is accessed from unmaintained Eagle Ledge Road where various established landings exist. The north-central section of the land is accessed from the unmaintained portion of Hardwood Flats Road.
The property spans nearly 5 miles from north to south and 4.5 miles east to west (at its widest points). All aspects are represented. Elevation ranges from 2,620’ in the western section (only 6.25 acres are above 2,500’) to ±900’ along Route 12. The majority of the terrain sits at elevations between 1,100-1,600’.
Most of the property can be characterized as moderate to steeply-sloping upland terrain, providing well-drained soils in these areas. Poorly-drained soils and wetlands exist in pockets scattered around the property, often associated with streams in low-lying, flat areas. The non-commercial acreage is limited to wetlands, roads and landings, thus all upland terrain has been accessed in the past during commercial thinning operations.
The North Branch of the Winooski River runs along the property in a spot adjacent to Route 12. A notable waterfall along the river is situated a stone's throw from the property’s boundary in this area. Catamount Brook drains the western block before entering the Winooski River along its property frontage on Route 12. Another notable stream is Hardwood Brook which runs along Eagle Ledge Road.
Timber data is based on a monumented and comprehensive timber inventory conducted in August 2018. The timber data reveal a total sawlog volume of 43,468 MBF International ¼” scale (7.5 MBF/commercial acre) with 121,632 pulpwood cords (21 cords/commercial acre). Combined total commercial per acre volume is 36 cords, well above the regional average. Stumpage values were assigned to the volumes in August of 2018, producing a property-wide Capital Timber Value (CTV) of $7,622,300 ($1,317/total commercial acre).
A species composition dominated by hardwoods prevails, with hardwoods at 77% and softwoods at 23% of total volume. Species composition for all products combined offers a favorable mix and is led by red maple (23%), followed by yellow birch (19%), sugar maple (16%), hemlock (15%), American beech (12%) and spruce/fir (8%), with other common hardwoods and softwoods comprising the balance. This species composition is well suited to a long-term timber investment, with solid markets regionally and into Quebec for the products growing on the land.
The current owner has not conducted any thinning activity since their 2014 tenure. The former family owner last managed stands on the eastern side of the property roughly 20 years ago. However it has been ±30 years since most of the forest stands have been managed.
Average diameter for all products combined is 13.5”, while the average sawlog diameter is nearly 14.5”, indicating a forest resource with a mature and maturing age class. Average diameter for the three main species are: sugar maple 14.0”, yellow birch 14.5” and red maple 15.5”.
The conservation easement on the property will be held by the State of Vermont, Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation. The seller, Vermont Land Trust (VLT), has been the owner since 2014, acquiring the land from the Meyer Family whose wish was to ensure the property would remain as a productive, unfragmented forest resource landscape. VLT is currently transferring the conservation easement to the State of Vermont, a process that is anticipated to occur in 2019. VLT is hoping to agree on purchase terms subject to the transfer of the conservation easement, at which point title will be transferred to the new owner.
A working forest “partnership” with the State of Vermont, Agency of Natural Resources offers the new owner predictability and cooperation, given the long history and solid reputation this agency has in overseeing other conservation easements under their stewardship.