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Anatoliy SABADYR, Head of the Technological Policy and Investments Section,
and Sergiy ZIBTSEV, National Agrarian University, Kiev, UKRAINE


This report describes the age and species structure of forests available for wood supply in the Carpathian Region, volumes of tree harvesting, the legislative framework of mountain forestry, and the technologies and machinery used for forest resources management in the Carpathians.

It is evident that forestry management system reformation is a task of primary importance in this region. This includes the economical promotion of the system of environmentally sound technologies, the development of special mountain forestry machines production, reduction of the profit tax, value added tax for the period of technological development, improvement of the legislative base and of a nature protection control system.

General characteristics of the Ukrainian Carpathians mountain forests

The Ukrainian Carpathians (the mountainous part of Chernivtsy, Zakarpatya, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv Regions) cover 4 percent of the Ukrainian territory and nearly 22 percent of the total forest area (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1. Carpathian mountain forests in total Ukrainian forests in 1 000 ha

This largest mountainous region is commercially significant. The Carpathian mountainous forest area stretches for 100–110 km in width and for 270 km in length. An average percentage of forest cover is 37 percent. It varies from 40 to 96 percent in different regions. Mountain forests grow at an altitude of 400 to 1 600 m above sea level (a.s.l.). The slopes are predominantly of medium and high downhill gradient (12–350), where the greatest part of the forest cover is found.

One of the peculiarities of this region is excess moisture. Annual Precipitation lies between 600 and 2 000 mm, of which about 350 mm in the cold season. The soils frost zone is 220 mm. Precipitation includes heavy showers, which wash away soils and cause landslides and floods. The water regulating function of forests, which depends upon nature-protective harvesting requirements, is extremely important.

Also worth mentioning is the great influence the alpine grasslands agropedological zone has on the hydrological regime of the Carpathians. Situated at altitudes of 1 100 to 1 450 m a.s.l., it partially covers the Zakarpatya Region and the Polonynsky mountain ridge (Polonyna-Runa, Borjava, Krasna and others). An excess of precipitation (1 200 to 1 600 mm per year, mainly in the summer) and a sum of active temperatures are the reasons for low natural vegetation productivity in this zone. Presumably it is the alpine grasslands agropedological zone that causes the formation of disastrous floods typical in the Zakarpatya Region. Alpine and subalpine meadows, alpine mountain ranges (northwest - southeast) cause the collision of hot and cold air masses, resulting in precipitation.

The Carpathian forests have great social and economical importance at regional, national and international levels. Though the percentage of forest cover is comparatively low here, the Ukrainian Carpathians cover 17.7 percent of the total territory of the Ukraine. Nearly 40 percent of mature tree stands grow here. The total territory of Carpathian forests constitutes 1 392 000 ha. Forests of the first and second group cover a territory of 862.6 thousand ha.

The most important mountain forests regions are: Zakarpatya and Ivano-Frankovsk Regions with 349.3 and 240.4 thousand ha of forests, respectively; Lviv Region, 180 000 ha; and the Chernovtsy Region, 92.5 thousand ha of forests. In forests available for wood supply, which constitute 62 percent of the territory of Carpathian forests, the predominant tree species are spruce (46 percent), beech (37 percent), fir (10 percent) and oak (4 percent) (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2. Species distribution of the growing stock in commercial forests (million m3)

In spruce and beech forests the age structure is characterized by the predominance of young and middle-aged trees (62–67 percent), and the near-optimal age structure of mature and over-mature tree stands (16–17 percent). This is the result of intensive (2–3 annual allowable cuts) cutting during the war and post-war periods up to 1960 (see Figure 3). The area of land with forest cover in the Carpathian Region has increased during the last 30 years (see Figure 4).

Volume and structure of forest resources management in the Region

In recent years forests have been underexploited by 15–17 percent (see Table 1). The main reason for this underexploitation is insufficient financing and lack of equipment, caused by economical instability and reformation of the budget financing scheme, and the destruction of production facilities for wood processing and the furniture industries. This happened in a period of imperfect privatization in the 1990s when - because of lack of State control and ensuing waste because of unsound harvesting practices, such as the cutting and wasting of non-commercial wood abandoned in the cutting area - in order to fully load the equipment in the large industrial wood processing complexes, 3.5 million m3 of timber had to be brought in.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Age-class distribution of the growing stock in commercial forests in the Carpathian Mountains
(million m3)

Figure 4

Figure 4. Changes in the area of land with forest cover in the Carpathian Region in 1 000 ha

Table 1. Dynamics of wood harvesting in State forestry enterprises commercial forests (million m3)

Annual Increment5.495.395.396.
Real harvesting6.035.385.645.925.794.664.424.494.344.41
% of Annual Increment11010010599979085858284

Today wood is harvested in ease of access to low-cost felling sites in foothills and low-lying areas. In mountain areas, where access is difficult, harvesting is impossible at present because of the lack of cable yarding systems, and this applies to the main part of mountain forests in the Carpathians (see Figure 5).

The percentage of wood harvested in mountain forests and supplied to consumers (91–96 percent) comprises spruce and beech; the rest is fir and oak (Zakarpatya and Ivano-Frankivsk Regions) (see Table 2).

Figure 5

Figure 5. Structure of final felling area in Zakarpatie and Ivano-Frankivska depends on slope and cutting area length

Table 2. Supply of wood by economical section in 1 000 m3

RegionEconomical sectionTotal
Lviv1 63.789.80.026.6563.2
Total1 473.757.399.3930.13 236.8

The degree of impact of harvesting operations on the forest environment depends on their type. Territory and volume distribution of annually harvested wood is presented in Table 3. In the territories available for main felling, 67 to 70 percent of forests are usually clear-cut. Clear-cutting has a very negative impact on the environment. In 1999, 4.28 thousand ha of forests were clear-cut. That constitutes about 0.4 percent of forests available for wood supply. In the rest of the territory covered with forests (30 percent), gradual and selective methods of cutting were used. Environmental harvesting includes sanitary cutting (60–68 percent) and different intermediate cutting (18–39 percent). Regeneration and reproduction cutting methods are used in the smallest territories.

Table 3. Volume and territory distribution of annually harvested wood

Kind of cuttingReal cutting
1 000 m3%1 000 ha%
Final felling
Clear-cutting1 010.367.34.2870.0
Gradual and selective491.932.71.8330.0
Total1 502.21006.11100
Forest management felling
Severance felling180.816.79.915.3
Clear sanitary355.
Forestation felling144.913.40.91.4
Total for forest management felling1 082.410064.71100

General challenges of forestry reformation in the transition period

In 1994 the process of privatization of forestry enterprises started. It was not properly organized and resulted in the breaking up of the forestry industrial complex in Zakarpatya and caused economical, ecological and social problems in the region.

Carpathian forests are still under several departments. As a result, in forests belonging to non-existent kolkhozes and military departments, forest resources management regulations are not observed. State forestry enterprises lack equipment and have insufficient financing.

In 1995 small and medium private enterprises (460 users) were allowed to clear-cut. Unfortunately most of them have no harvesting equipment and specialists. That is why they violate forestry and ecological legislation. Naturally they try to reduce harvesting and transportation costs in harvesting activities.

In this Region, State forestry inspection, which efficiently controlled forestry enterprises activity and observance of harvesting regulations, was halted. Therefore, effective control does not now exist in this Region.

In the year 2000, forest roads (the total length of which is 2 800 km) were not repaired because of the destruction of forestry enterprises. Moreover State forestry enterprises, which have been recently created, have no funds for these purposes. Not long ago an ecological disaster destroyed almost all the roads, and now State enterprises need about US$2.5 million for their reconstruction.

Most of the new enterprises have no possibility of processing wood, which is why they use only industrial wood and why the rest of the wood is left blocking mountain rivers and streams.

Legislative framework of forest resources management in the mountain forests of Ukraine

The main legislative acts regulating mountain forest resources management are the following:

The main requirements for mountain forest cutting have also been formulated in these documents. Forestry cutting should have the minimum negative impact on trees, soil, water reservoirs and nature:

The active normative documents are not perfect. They have some defects. They allow to clear-cut, to extract by crawler tractors in the periods without snow, which destroys the environment and decreases the productivity of forests. Besides, an imperfect system of granting permission for cutting operations in mountain forests was created. There is no efficient control system, nor a system of sanctions against violations.

In November 1998 in Zakarpatya the catastrophic floods attracted public and Government attention to the forest management situation in mountain forests. As a result, in December, Verkhovna Rada (the Parliament) of Ukraine adopted a law on “Moratorium on clear cutting on mountain slopes of fir-beech forests in the Carpathian Region”. This law was put into effect on 10 February 2000.

According to this law, in forests situated 1 100 m a.s.l., in regions with the danger of avalanches, and in forests that protect the banks of rivers, clear-cutting is prohibited. Clear-cutting is also prohibited in fir-beech forests on slopes of more than 21°.

On these slopes, only selective, gradual and stripped-coupe felling are allowed in territories of 3–5 ha (forests of the first group). The width of stripped-coupe cutting must not exceed 50 m. Forests should be cut only across, reducing the risk of soil erosion. Horizontal distribution of cutting plots complicates the felling and doubles costs.

In 2005 extraction will only be done with wheeled tractors, horse logging and cable yarding systems. By 2010 the density of the forest roadnet, with an improved hard cover, should reach 10 km, i.e. increase fourfold.

Planning of forest harvesting in mountain regions

Forest harvesting is planned in accordance with the “Regulations of main felling in forests of Ukraine” (1995). According to this document, harvesting planning should include the following stages:

Unfortunately these regulations are not observed completely because of a number of objective reasons. Among them the most important is the unsatisfactory financial situation of forestry enterprises and the lack of environmentally sound equipment.

Not long ago a new system of mountain forests harvesting planning was developed on the basis of computer technologies. It includes a complex assessment of environment-technological peculiarities of a felling site, ecological impact of harvesting, creation of data bases (Arc View GIS 3.0) and helps to optimize engineering of forest roads, extraction ways and methods of extraction (Bibluk, Stiranivskiy, Adamovskiy et al., 2000).

Mountain forests harvesting technologies

Up until the 1950s, mountain forests were harvested by means of animal logging and gravity. This method of harvesting had some negative impact on tree stands, soils, mountain rivers and streams. It included animal logging, manual loading and grading and extraction of logs along special roads and narrow-gauge railways and floating.

The industrialization of forestry enterprises began in the Carpathians in the 1950s. Complex forestry enterprises responsible for planting, growing, harvesting and processing of wood and non-wood products were created. Traditional harvesting, which was less efficient, was superseded by new, highly mechanized technologies of harvesting. The most progressive of them is ecological cable yarding systems. In the post-war period tens of millions of cubic metres of wood were used for the construction and reconstruction of production facilities.

The Council of Ministers of the USSR determined administrative harvesting plans (without taking into account scientifically grounded norms of forest harvesting), which exceeded the annual increment several times. All necessary financing and equipment were provided. In that period forestry machinery construction was developed. In the design bureau of Josef Korotin (inventor of the T-34) the first model of a wheeled skidder was created and the TDT-40 tractor was developed. At that time TL yarders, modernized by specialists, were used as the main means of forestry transport.

Yarders were also used for the loading of logs onto the platforms of a narrow-gauge railway. But this machinery was not perfect and environmentally sound. The floating of logs along rivers was very difficult work, which had a very negative impact on the environment. Low-quality, low-productive and low-cost equipment was produced.

In that period, in the USSR scientists and constructors developed two approaches to forest exploitation:

In the mid-1950s and at the beginning of the 1960s the production of wheeled skidders quickly increased so that, by the end of the 1960s, the first specialized forestry tractors were produced. The Minsk Tractor Factory had documentation for the construction of the LT forestry tractor (power - 122 kWT). At the same time in Latvia, the NPO Factory “Silava” had almost completed a forestry tractor powered by 40 kWT. These tractors were models for the development of cable yarding systems, which have been created in Krasnodarsk CNIIMT and VPKTIlesmash (Maikop). The research was not very fast because of the small amount of harvesting done in mountain forests (less than 10 percent). Forests were harvested mainly in wet plains where about 350 million m3 of wood was harvested annually.

From 1988 to 1991 in the Carpathian Region about 59 cable yarding systems were functioning, including 28 yarders (they lowered 15 percent [30 thousand m3] of harvested wood) in the Zakarpatya Region. In the “Lvivlis”, State Forestry Enterprise, 11 yarders (8 yarders TL-4(5) and 3 yarders LL-26, 6 yarders “Slavsk”, 4 yarders “Scolett”, and 1 yarder “Drogobych”) were functioning. Annually cable yarding systems lowered 30 percent (52.9 thousand m3) of harvested wood. Forty-one bulldozers and 37 excavators were used for the construction and repairing of forest roads and technological platforms. The prime cost of transportation of one cubic metre of wood was approximately US$23–24 (1982). Shift production of cable yarding systems was 16–18 m3, maximum 25–28 m3.

In the 1980s to 1990s the quantity of cable yarding systems was reduced and in the last decades crawler tractors have become the predominant means of harvesting. Now about 85–100 percent of wood is harvested by these tractors. In 1995, three forestry enterprise administrations were privatized and changed to three forestry administrations under regional administrations. State forestry enterprises responsible for the management of State forests have also been created but they do not get equipment or finance for forest management. These enterprises are responsible for forest and hunting management, harvesting of minor forest products and protection of forests. Harvesting is not their compulsory activity.

During the transitional period, as a result of the deterioration in the economical situation, the forestry enterprises of Zakarpatya have not been able to harvest all forests available for wood supply. Thus other enterprises have been allowed to harvest there, and today in the Carpathian Region non-State forestry enterprises harvest most of the wood. In 1999 they harvested more than 90 percent of forests found in the Zakarpatya Region, and 60–70 percent in the Chernivtsy and Ivano-Frankivsk Regions.

Private forest-cutting enterprises can be divided into two categories:

Workers of all forestry enterprise categories get special training. After training, the State Inspection of Harvesting Labour Safety allows them to harvest forests. Safety in cable crane operations has not changed essentially from Soviet times. Safety measures of cable yarding systems usage are enumerated in the operating instructions (1988).

The safety measures regulate the whole technological process, starting with the preparation of a felling site to the storage of harvested wood. Today it is necessary to complete and coordinate some requirements of communications facilities and economy with European regulations. These issues are supposed to be improved simultaneously with the improvement of harvesting technologies.

Unspecialized harvesters usually violate ecological regulations of harvesting. Examples of violations: no harvesting operations planning, harvesting in seasons without snow and harvesting by means of crawler tractors, which damage approximately 83–96 percent of undergrowth and disturb soil. In summer and autumn crawler tractors slip. This increases the damage of the washing away of 150–500 m3 of prolific soil per 1 hectare. Even if 3 mm of the blanket is damaged and washed away, the losses will constitute 3 m3 per 1 hectare. In 4.2 thousand ha of clear-cut territory, using good machinery, there is an average volume of washed away soil of 12.6 m3. Not properly cleared felling sites preclude the natural regeneration of forest.

The degree of harvesting impact on the environment also depends on the density of the road-net in the mountains. Unfortunately the road net is not developed enough in this region. The density of forest roads constitutes 0.6–0.7 km per 100 hectares, and the optimal index is 1.5–2 km per hectare in this region.

The following harvesting methods are used in main felling and clear sanitary felling in mountain forests:

  1. Stem method: Trees are cut by chainsaws and delimbed by axes and power-saws. Stems and logs are extracted to the landing by crawler tractors; then they are loaded by a truck crane or by a timber fork loader and removed by log trucks.
  2. Assortment method: Trees are cut by chainsaws and delimbed by axes and power-saws, cross-cut by chainsaws, extracted by crawler tractors (on slopes of 12–14° by wheeled tractors), by animal logging (5–7 percent of the total volume), or by cable yarding systems (5 percent of the total volume). Then logs are loaded by a truck crane or by a timber fork loader and removed by log trucks.

Thus, now forest harvesting technologies, equipment and cutting methods are used in mountain forests, which have a very negative impact on the state of trees, soil, undergrowth and hydrology of mountain rivers and streams. There are many complex reasons for harvesting with such machinery: the economic crisis, imperfect forestry institutional reforms, absence of international cooperation with forestry technique innovators, deterioration of State control, and others.

At the same time, a theoretical base of environmentally sound forestry technology usage in mountain forests has already been developed in the Ukraine. The leading research organizations are: Ukrainian Mountain Forestry Research Institute, Ivano-Frankivsk UkrPKTIlesprom, Lviv PKTE, Ukrainian Forestry Technical University, Lviv, NVP “UkrAvtraMash” and Lviv Engineering Design Consortium.

For effective forestry resources management, the development of a forestry infrastructure is necessary to build forest roads and to finance forestry enterprises. In 1999 a Government programme was adopted for the construction of forest roads in Zakarpatya and for the provision of new machinery until 2010. This will cost US$45.2 million; US$18.1 million is financed by the budget. In 1999 this programme was financed by US$0.6 million.

The assessment of forestry harvesting machinery used in mountain forests: perspectives of new forestry machinery creation and application

In mountain forests the quality of harvesting operations depends on the material base of State forestry enterprises, as these enterprises are responsible for the environmental felling and for a tenth of clear cutting. For instance, in 1999, State forestry enterprises managed about 66–67 thousand ha of forests in the territory.

Table 4 gives information on forestry machinery in the State forestry enterprises. According to the data given, in mountain forest harvesting operations crawler tractors are normally used and chain saws (25–50 percent of chainsaws “Husqvarna”, “Stihl”, “Ural” and others). For 1998–2000 the use of chainsaws for domestic production has increased to 20 percent and is still increasing.

Table 4. State forestry enterprises forestry machinery provision (absolute number and per 1 000 m3 of annual increment)

MachineryState regional forest administration
NumberNumber per 1 000 m3NumberNumber per 1 000 m3NumberNumber per 1 000 m3
Crawler tractors7712.52920.25750.19
Chain saws715(360)2.34391(127)1.08228(50)0.56
Log trucks1040.34680.19850.21
Electric saw370.12140.04180.04
Cable yarding systems30.0110.00--

The most popular model of crawler tractors is the TDT-55. Their weight is 10–12 tonnes; tractive force is 65 kN, specific pressure on soil 52 kN. The crawler tractors mostly operate in mountainous terrain. The tractor park is hardly worn out in this region: 40–76 percent of tractors are used for more than 8–10 years.

Cable yarding systems and yarders do not prevail, therefore, they do not play a significant role. Now in the Carpathians the following systems are used: KSK - 16/20 (Austria) - Vygotskiy SFE, LS 2–500 (Slovakia) - Skolevsky SFE, “Gantner” (Austria)- Slavskiy SFE, LL-26 (Russia) - V.Bychkovskyi SFE.

The reasons for rare usage of cable yarding systems in harvesting are:

Recently a number of experimental models of Ukrainian forestry machinery have been developed. They are:

The Cabinet of Ministers of the Ukraine has adopted a resolution according to which, for the period to 2010, in Zakarpatya 155 wheeled skidders, 95 log trucks and 95 cable yarding systems should be provided costing, US$5.9 million.

Progress in introducing environmentally sound technologies in mountain forest harvesting is possible only with economical encouragement of utilization of these technologies, abolition of customs duties, and the reduction of the profit tax and value added tax during the period of technological development. Moreover, it is necessary to solve legal matters, develop a mechanism for investment, and define the costs of realization of water regulation, climate mitigation and the protective functions of the Carpathian forests.

The governing factor of forest resources management improvement is stabilization of the socio-economical situation in the Ukraine. Only after that will it be possible to increase the financing of environmentally sound and nature-protective technologies in the regions of intergovernmental significance. Cardinal measures should also be taken to reconstruct the internal market for forest products (especially low-grade products), to utilize firewood and residues for energy supply and for pulp production. The limitations on the export of forest products from the Ukraine to European countries must be abolished.

A modern training centre for environmentally sound sustainable forestry management in mountain forests, where specialists can be trained in the development of ecological technologies, should be created and based on Ukrainian research institutions.


Badera, I.S, Martyntsiv, M.P. & Udovitskiy. 1997. Development of environmentally sound technologies and machinery for mountain forests harvesting. Wood Business, No. 3, 1997

Bibluk N., Stiranvskiy A. & Adamovskiy, M. 2000. Aspects of technological planning of harvesting computer technologies assisted. Wood Business, No. 1, 2000.

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