Getting To Know Your Woods
How well do you know the wooded property you own? Before you make decisions
about your land, such as harvesting timber, be familiar with your property.
Here's how to get started in learning about your woods:
Take a walk in your woods
It is important to be familiar with your land before you ask for expert help.
Walk through your woods. Talk with your neighbors. Here are questions to help
you learn about your land:
- Is your land hilly or flat?
- Are the trees big or small?
- Do most of the trees have needles (pines) or leaves (hardwoods)?
- Are the trees in rows or naturally scattered?
- Are there streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands, or other water?
- Do you see signs of animals living in your woods?
- What other useful things do you see in the woods: is there pine straw,
a good picnic spot or campsite, berries and nuts, or walking trails?
- Are there roads near your woods? Or a road through your woods?
- What was your land used for before?
Ask your neighbors if they remember timber harvests, hunting, or other activities
on your land.
Know your boundaries
Learn where your land ends and someone else’s land begins. The corners
of your land may be marked by:
- Trees with three slashes (called witness trees)
- Some type of metal stake or pipe
- Piles of rocks, or piles of rocks with a stake
Check if your neighbors recently had a “survey” and will show you
the map of their land. Make sure that people know to ask your permission before
using your woods. “Post” your property by putting up “no hunting” or “no
trespassing” signs every 100 - 150 yards along the boundaries.
Keep records of everything
Good records will help you make choices about your land and could help you
reduce your taxes one day. Keep all of your papers together in a note-book
Papers to keep
- Receipts, bills, and letters (what you bought or sold, how much of it,
and who you bought it from or sold it to.)
- Copies of checks or money orders. These are easier to keep track of than
- Photos of your woods
- All other important papers, like management plans and agreements.
Sign a written agreement with anyone who uses your land or works on your land.
Be sure to pay your property tax bill!
Where to get information
You can learn about your land from county records. Get a copy of the deed
and a copy of the map for your property. There are two county offices where
you can find this information:
Here you can find:
- Size of your land - number of acres
- The listed owner - This person receives the tax bill
- Buildings and other “improvements” - houses, barns, etc.
- The value of the land - used to calculate your tax bill
- Maps of the property
Register of Deeds
Here you can find:
- The deed and a description of the land, its boundaries and corners, and
sometimes a map.
- Any lien or mortgage put on the land because of taxes, loans, or legal
Get legal advice
A lawyer or other professional can be helpful to a landowner. They can look
up all of the information in the county offices for you. A lawyer or accountant
can give you advice about taxes. Most lawyers charge fees, but their help may
be worth the price.
Here are several ways to find a lawyer:
- Ask friends and neighbors if they can recommend a lawyer.
- Look through the yellow pages in the phone book under “Attorneys.”
Get help from an expert
You can ask for help from:
- Virginia Department of Forestry
- Virginia Cooperative Extension Service
- You can find their phone numbers by looking in the Virginia state government
pages in your local phone book. You can also hire a consulting
forester. Although consulting foresters charge for their services, their
help is worth the price!