Did you know that a tremendous amount of work goes into planning a timber sale?
Meet Karen Gailey, owner of BJ Forestry Services
Ask Karen Gailey of BJ Forestry Services LLC about timber harvests and she’ll tell you,
“It’s all a process.” From beginning to end, there are multiple steps to be taken and a lot of work
just to get the point of starting to cut timber. And it’s a multi-step process that Gailey absolutely
loves being a part of.
The West Virginia University forestry graduate ended up as a private consulting forester
in Southern Maryland after spending her early years with the love of her life out west working
seasonal forestry gigs before working with the Maryland Forest Service once settling back home
on the East Coast.
Though she was born and raised in Baltimore, Gailey played outside whether “rain, sleet
or snow” and she knew early on she needed a job outside. Calling herself the oddball in a family
of city folks, “the thought of working inside turned my stomach,” Gailey says.
That stomach-turning scenario never came to pass, as she spent her early working
years as a seasonal employee with the U.S. Forest Service, working in a national forest in
California as well as on a fire crew in Idaho. Gailey lived in Idaho for 4-5 years with her husband
while both worked with the U.S. Forest Service. They settled down back on the East Coast,
where she worked with the Maryland Forest Service as the forester for St. Mary’s County for 8
While holding her newborn and watching another one of her 3 kids get on the school
bus, Gailey soon realized she was missing out on time with her children and decided to go part
time with the Maryland Forest Service before venturing out on her own. “I wanted to work on my
own and needed to do it for myself,” she says.
27 years later and Gailey is still going at it with BJ Forestry Services. A lot of her time is
dedicated to timber sales, which entails everything from preparing sediment control plans to
locating property lines to marking timber sale boundaries. When it comes to marking the trees,
“that’s the real fun,” says Gailey, noting that there is a ton of work before that step. Questions
she must answer before getting out under the forest canopy include finding out if landowners
have management plans, is there enough buyable volume, or is the site in a Critical Area and
are there rare species to protect?
Marking boundary lines often takes a tremendous amount of time, and sometimes Gailey
must become an online sleuth hunting down land deed details. Occasionally, properties have
been in family hands for a long time and she’ll actually see handwritten property
maps/boundaries or plats. She is grateful for all the years working in the woods and meeting
many friendly & enthusiastic landowners.
There is a lot of time and thought that goes into the harvests Gailey works on, and her
customers know it, with many who first contacted her 15 years ago recently following up again
for another property visit and harvest guidance. As the forest stand regenerates, it provides a
cycle of harvests for the landowner and an opportunity for Gailey to do what she loves: talk
trees and timber.
With all those steps mentioned above, it could be a year before loggers actually start
cutting, says Gailey. Everything is done through a bid process and she advises landowners to
get paid in full if the harvest involves hardwood species or clear cutting of pine. Asked about her
preferred tree work, she points to hardwood instead of softwood, where she’s had her fill of run-
ins with chiggers.
As the cutting is going on, Gailey will be there making sure everyone knows the
boundaries, ensuring that the Timber Sale Agreement & Sediment Control Plan are being
followed, that the site is stabilized once the logging is completed and of course checking in with
the landowner. “It’s about making the owner happy,” she says.
Part of making owners happy and managing a sustainable woodland is the selective harvest of hardwood stands. When clear cutting does occur in hardwoods, natural regeneration is usually plentiful. However, planting can always be done if natural regeneration fails or if a certain species is desired. In most cases, pine regenerates well, but planting may also be done in stands that are clear cut. Usually about 622 trees per acre are planted to regenerate the stand.
The woods of Southern Maryland have kept Gailey plenty busy and it’s a place she’s
happy to call home and her very own outdoor office. “There’s never been a need to go farther,”
Photo Credit: EDWIN REMSBERG PHOTOGRAPHS
Project Support: RURAL MARYLAND COUNCIL
LINKS TO LEARN MORE:
West Virginia University-Forest Resources Management Major-
MFA- Forest Landowners Frequently Asked Questions-
UMD Extension- Maryland Consulting and Industrial Foresters Directory-
Maryland's Forests- Great for the Environment and the Economy-