Invasive species control work, like the Ivy removal described in our previous blog posts, and your property’s situation may be daunting to take on by yourself.
If you own a forested property and work needs to happen on acres or thousands of square feet, hiring a professional contractor may be a good option.
Most of KCD’s forest health management cost-share projects recommend that landowners utilize a professional contractor. A forestry or ecological restoration contractor can typically complete invasive species control, brush control, planting trees and shrubs, and tree thinning. At the bottom of this blog post we share a number of resources available for finding contractors that may be able to help with completing work in your forest.
Public agency staff cannot recommend specific contractors, but we can provide advice on working with a contractor. Whether you are working with KCD on a forest health management cost-share project or looking to just hire someone to help complete a weekend’s worth of blackberry removal, there are important matters that any landowner should consider or know about when working with a contractor on forest restoration work.
1 – Know what work you want done, where, and when, then write it down. Get help from KCD or another public agency if necessary.
To find the right contractor and get an accurate cost estimate accurately describe the work that needs to be completed, where on the property it should happen, and when it can and cannot occur. For any work involving removing or killing vegetation, it is highly recommended landowners find and mark property boundaries and ideally flag or specify the area where want the contractor to complete the work. Providing an estimate of the area size (acres, square feet) will also help a contractor with initial consideration of the project.
Put this information into a written document that can then be emailed or shared with the contractor on site. If this seems too difficult, contact public agency staff like KCD’s forest stewardship program staff, a Washington State Department of Natural Resources (WA DNR) Stewardship Assistance forester or a King County stewardship forester. These public professionals can assist and guide you on designing forest projects through free consultations.
2 – When asking for bids or cost estimates from contractors, provide documentation describing the work.
Before calling a contractor for prices or even to ask if they can complete the work and when, get the project documentation to them to review. A contractor may not be interested or able to take on the project because of its size or the type of work being requested. A phone call or property visit will be much more productive if you both have reviewed the same set of project information.
3 – After receiving a response, gather some more information about the contractor.
Important information to gather from contractors, besides a cost estimate or bid, includes:
- Licenses, certifications, years of experience and credentials?
- Insured and bonded?
- Type of past clients?
- What work tasks can contractor complete?
- What methods will be used?
For example, project task: killing invasive blackberry, possible methods: herbicide, manual, mechanical mowing, combination of methods.
- How will you be charged for services?
- Does the contractor charge per hour, per work day, per area unit (acre), or cost of materials?
This information may be provided in a bid or cost estimate document, but if it’s not clear how you’ll be billed for the work, ask for clarification.
Does the contractor use a standard written contract? Is a written contract required?
- For simple projects smaller than an acre that can be completed in a day or two, a formal contract may not be needed.
- For projects that involve multiple different tasks and multiple years of work, a contract is recommended.
Some contractors regularly operate without a written contract. Ultimately, it is the landowner’s choice on how to arrange for work to be completed on their property. However, it is best to have a written contract that specifies the responsibilities of both parties in the transaction. A contract is legally binding and protects both parties from painful misunderstandings and costly disputes.
Develop a contract that spells out:
- Roles for you and the contractor
- Performance expectations and tasks
- Clearly stated costs
This helps clarify your business arrangement, avoids surprises and, ultimately, reduces risk to you and to the contractor. Specify how contract disputes and noncompliance will be handled in the contract.
Understand and establish expectations for communication, work coordination, and billing:
- The amount and kind of communication and coordination a contractor is willing and able to provide varies. Some professional contractors may have limited availability due to other project work and will fit in a project when they have time or when weather conditions permit.
- A contractor may have the expectation that they will only be communicating when work is complete, when they encounter a problem or for final invoicing.
- Know your comfort level and expectations around communication and coordination of work with a contractor and make those clear before hiring a contractor.
- Establish how and when contractor will invoice for work completed.
Professional contractors that provide forestry and ecological restoration services are a critical piece of the conservation puzzle for our region. These skilled professionals have often dedicated decades of their lives to learning, understanding what works and implementing conservation practices on the ground. Some have controlled thousands of acres of invasive species, planted hundreds of thousands of trees and shrubs and have staked their livelihood on stewarding natural habitats. For those that own and take on the life-long responsibility to steward the natural resources on our properties, professional forestry and ecological restoration contractors are invaluable conservation partners.
Check out these useful resources for finding contractors or consulting foresters that could recommend contractors:
Search for a contractor or consultant by type of professional, service provided and location.
Search directory of ISA certified professionals by type of service, service provided and location.
A useful Oregon State University Extension guide on contracts that includes some example contracts.
Free technical assistance and consultations available from staff on forest stewardship planning and project design.