Training Loggers For Restoration Of The Future Forest

The Southern Forestry Foundation (SFF) held a three-day workshop on “Chain Saw Safety and Precision Felling Techniques” on August 5 – 7 at the campus of Warren Wilson College. The workshop was affiliated with Soren Eriksson’s “Game of Logging” and was designed to improve the skills and capability of working loggers and forestry professionals. The instructor was David Sienko, the Forest Resource Association’s Appalachian Logger of the Year, 2000.

Dropping large trees in the forest is dangerous work. It is also a major cause of residual damage to the selected trees that will be left to grow into the next generation of timber. For these reasons, it’s important that a logger be able to precisely control the direction of a tree’s fall. The workshop taught the open face felling technique for controlled directional felling. This involves determining which direction a tree will naturally fall, cutting a notch and hinge to guide the tree’s direction during fall, and doing a bore cut (cutting with the tip of the bar, rather than with the side) to insure a safe fall. The loggers also learned how to make a tree fall against the direction of its natural lean by using wedges.

Workshop participants also learned chain saw maintenance and safety procedures, and how to do bucking (cutting logs to size), removing limbs, and cutting spring poles (small trees bent by a larger tree’s fall) quickly and safely.

This “Game of Logging” workshop was the debut of the newly-established Southern Forestry Foundation’s program to improve forest management techniques on private lands. The group’s action plan is threefold. The first aspect of the program is to establish demonstration forest areas to show landowners the economic and ecological improvements that result from environmentally sensitive logging. The group also plans to introduce and evaluate the performance of innovative, low impact logging equipment in the difficult mountain terrain. The third aspect is to turn out trained logging crews, starting with events such as the August 5 workshop, but eventually developing full training courses to teach loggers the skills necessary to do low impact forestry.

Lislott Harberts of Statesville, NC, the executive director of the SFF, said that the remaining forests in North Carolina have suffered from high-grading (taking the best trees and leaving the worst) and poor management practices. The goal of the SFF is to restore the quality of the forest resource, she said. “Once this area was the center of hardwood production. This abundance gave birth to the local furniture industry. But today few quality hardwoods come from North Carolina. Our mission is to lay the groundwork for the high quality forest of the future.”

One obstacle in the way of that mission is the lack of loggers who understand forest ecology and the sophisticated techniques of low impact logging. “We know what needs to be done,” said Harberts, “but it is embarrassing when we convince a landowner to start on this program and then have to say that we cannot begin because there are no loggers available who can do the work. We can have the most glamorous theories in the world, but they are worth nothing, unless we can change the practice on the ground.

“The Southern Forest Foundation encourages natural stand management. Precision felling is the best technique to remove mature, crowded, or damaged trees while protecting the economic potential and biological diversity of a natural stand.”
Harberts stresses the economic benefits of environmentally sensitive forest management. The benefits come both to the landowner, who is selling large, high quality trees instead of low-priced pulpwood, and to the logger, who can command a higher price for a higher level of workmanship.

But it’s not just about the money. When Harberts looks at a stand of trees, she sees both beauty and timber value. “We let these beautiful trees grow, but then instead of honoring their beauty and value, we butcher them,” she said. “Good forestry teaches us the ultimate potential of a piece of land.”

For more information about the Southern Forestry Foundation’s “Game of Logging” training, contact Lislott Harberts at (704) 872-1930. Participants will also be eligible for CEU credits from the NC Forestry Association.

Loggers in Virginia will now face a fine if they fail to notify the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) when they begin a logging job. Until now, loggers faced no consequences if they did not report their activities.

The new law that has just gone into effect puts teeth into an already existing law. According to VDOF, “This change gives the State Forester the authority to issue a Civil Penalty of $250 for the initial violation and up to $1,000 for subsequent violations.”

The new law came about as the result of a push by the Virginia Forest Watch (VAFW), a statewide environmental organization, for more responsible logging practices. Under its “Neighborhood Forest Watch” program, citizens around the state report logging jobs to VAFW, which submits the information to the Department of Forestry.

“We will continue to monitor logging operations throughout Virginia, reporting any and all logging jobs we see to the department,” said VAFW chairman Gerald Gray, an attorney in Clintwood, Va.

By tracking jobs for two years, VAFW learned that over 50% of the jobs they reported to VDOF had never been reported to the Department by the loggers. Once reported by VAFW, the Department inspected the logging operations and found active water quality problems on nearly half of the jobs as the result of poor logging practices.

Had the loggers reported where they were logging as required by law, VDOF staff might have been able to prevent pollution from entering the streams. “We request all citizens let us know about logging operations they see,” Gray said. “We do not use their names when reporting locations to the VDOF.”

Citizens can report logging jobs to VAFW by either calling 276-479-2176 or emailing to Good directions to the job are needed. Please let Forest Watch volunteers know: where the job is; if the job is active, if not, how old you think it is; who is doing the logging (if you know); whose property it is on (if you know); any thing bad you see on this job.


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