Harvesting

Aesthetic Improvements
During and After Timber Harvesting Operations

Karl Davies and Cynthia Wood
February, 1995

Intoduction

Many landowners are reluctant to consider forest management and timber harvesting for aesthetic reasons.  The appearance of log landings and skid roads after cutting operations is a large part of the problem.  Log landings are likely to have areas of bare ground and piles of chunks.  Skid roads will also have bare ground and sometimes will have ruts and slash (tops and limbs) which make walking difficult.  The disposal of slash in the woods is another part of the problem.  Unlopped tops are an eyesore.  Damaged trees along skid roads further detract from the visual appearance of the forest.

Fortunately, all of these problems can be alleviated by careful planning and supervision of the cutting operation, plus some remedial measures after completion of the cutting operation.    For example, landings can be located where chunks can be easily burried.  A skid road network can be designed to run across dry ground to avoid rutting.  Access to wet areas can be limited to times of the year when the ground is frozen or dry.  The sale contract can require that tops be lopped or crushed to within 2 or 3 feet of the ground.  Trees that are likely to be damaged can be marked as part of the sale. 

After all the cutting is done, the landings and skid roads can be seeded to grass and other groundcovers to soften their appearance--and to prevent erosion.  Slash can be removed from the skid roads.  Parts of skid roads that become rutted can be smoothed out with a bulldozer.  Most standard timber sale contracts will require some are all of the above measures to preserve the appearance of the forest.  However, careful planning of the details of their implementation can lead to a better final appearance and to less confusion about expectations and execution.

Reseeding Log Landings and Skid Roads

In moist, temperate climates like ours, natural regeneration occurs rapidly on recently harvested woodland.  However, heavily utilized areas, such as log landings and skid roads, are slow to regenerate because logging equipment removes the organic layer and compacts the soil.  The organic soil layer, composed largely of leaf duff, breaks rainfall, absorbs water and reduces overland flow.  Exposed mineral soils are very susceptible to erosion--- particularly if there is a slope and lack of water diversions.

Risk of erosion can be reduced and visual appearance can be softened by reseeding these susceptible sites immediately after completion of the harvest.  Also, the use of certain plant species will provide food for wildlife.  Species recommended for reseeding vary depending upon soil texture/drainage and amount of disturbance.  Table 1 provides a summary of goundcover species and quantities necessary for revegetation. 

SOIL TYPE

BASIC USE
Soil Stabilization Species (lbs. per acre)

WILDLIFE FOODS
Annual Species

(lbs. per acre)

WILDFLOWERS
Annual Species

Well-Drained

Ryegrass (15)
Creeping Red Fescue (20) Tall Fescue (30)

Sorghum (50)
Balboa Rye (60)
Buckwheat (40)
Corn (15)
Japanese Millet (20)

Sweet William
Scarlet Flax
Bachelors Button
Yarrow
Purple Cornflower

Poorly-Drained

Perennial Ryegrass (15)
Reed Canarygrass (15)

Japanese Millet (30)

No Options Suggested

Table 1.  Goundcover species and quantities necessary for revegetating log landings and      skid roads.  Source: Cooperative Extension Services of New England States.

The species recommended for basic soil stabilizaion should become established and survive on areas with little or no organic matter, but will have much higher success rates if fertilizer and lime are added.  Species recommended as wildlife foods may have lower rates of establishment on log landings and skid trails because of the soil compaction and limited organic layer present.  In these situations the wildlife species should be mixed with the stabilization species to assure stabilization.

Fertilizer and lime will increase the rate of seed establishment.  A soil test will help determine the requirements for fertilizer and lime, but usually a basic 10-10-10 fertilizer plus lime at manufacturer-recommended levels will be adequate.  Pelletized/granular fertilizers and lime are preferable because they release their nutrients more gradually. 

Inexpensive mixtures called `contractors mix` are widely available.  They have high contents of annual and perennial rye which green up quickly; they also typically contain fescue and bluegrass.  `Conservation mixes` are also widely available and generally have clover and timothy in addition to ryegrasses and fescues.  Special mixtures containing high percentages of tall fescue are available for sandy sites.  Most farm supply stores will custom mix seeds for sites with special needs.

The timing of sowing seeds can be critical to the successful establishment of groundcovers.  A rain storm shortly after sowing will increase the probability of seed establishment because the impact of rain drops on bare soil dislodges soil particles that then cover the seeds.  Covering the seed limits the amount of seed collected by birds.  Also, rain will begin to break down the fertilizer, supplying nutrients to the newly germinating seeds.

Hardwood and Softwood Chunks and Log Landings

 The term chunks applies to pieces of trees left at the landing because they are the crooked, forked or otherwise unsuited for making logs.  Usually these pieces are pushed to the edge of the log landing and abandoned at the end of the harvesting operation.  Chunks degrade the aesthetic appearance of the landing.  The table below shows alternative methods for disposing of chunks, with their respective advantages and disadvantages.

METHOD

ADVANTAGES

DISADVANTAGES

Push to the edge of landing

Low cost, habitat for wildlife, no special equipment

Visually unattractive

Push into adjacent woods flat to the ground

Low cost, habitat for wildlife, no special equipment

Somewhat visually unattractive

Skid back into the woods

Moderate cost, no special equipment

Chunks still visible in woods

Bury in depression near landing

Moderate cost

May create a liability for future house site

Pile and burn at landing

Eliminates nearly all material

Expensive, some chunks may not burn

Truck off landing

Eliminates all material

Expensive, potential problems obtaining dump permit

Table 2.  Methods of disposing of chunks at log landings.

The method for disposal can include a mix of options.  For instance, the hardwood chunks can be split for firewood; some of the smaller softwood chunks can be neatly piled in a shaded, moist area for wildlife habitat; the remainder can be burned or hauled away.  Landowners should consider their overall management goals, the site characteristics and the relative costs in determining the appropriate method for chunk disposal.  The choice of disposal method(s) should be indicated in the timber sale bid prospectus.

Paying for Aesthetic Improvements

There are two ways improvements can be arranged and paid for.  The most conventient, but not necessarily the most effective way is to include the improvements in the timber sale bid prospectus and sale contract.  The buyer will then be obligated to do the work.  This method can lead to problems with timing and detail of execution.  The other method is to set aside money from the returns of sale to hire your forester to do the work.  In either case, the costs indicated below should be anticipated.  If the logging contractor is required to do the work the cost will of course come out of the stumpage price.

IMPROVEMENT

ESTIMATED COST

Seeding to groundcovers

$30 per 10,000 SF = 1,000 LF skid road

Fertilizer & lime

$30 per 10,000 SF = 1,000 LF skid road

Burn or remove chunks

$200 per 10 CY = dump truck load

NOTES:   Skid roads are typically about 10' wide.  Removing chunks requires frontloader and dump truck.  Burning requires bulldozor or excavator on site to maintain pile.

 

Table 3.  Costs of various aesthetic improvement measures.

Conclusions

The overall appearance of timber harvesting operations is a major concern to many forest landowners.  The movement of heavy machinery across land is bound to cause some damage, but with proper planning, supervision, and remedial action, the aesthetic quality of harvested sites can be maintained.  Skid road design is an important aspect of all logging operations, and if done properly can minimize rutting and damage to sensitive sites.  In addition, lopping tree tops and removing damaged trees along skid roads increases the appearance of openness and beauty. 

These practices can be augmented by reseeding the log landing and skid roads after harvest, which reduces soil erosion and provides wildlife habitat, while improving the aesthetic characteristics of the area.  In addition, the removal of tree chunks from the log landing aids in the transformation of the area from a heavily utilized site to an important habitat for many wildlife species.