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4. Forest Harvest Planning

4.1 Site-Specific Forest-Use Planning
4.2 Planning Levels
4.3 Amendments to the Plans
4.4 Planning Staff
4.5 Plan Approval Process
4.6 Management Information Systems/Geographic Information Systems and the Planning Process


To develop comprehensive strategic and operational planning mechanisms that ensure that forest values will be protected during harvesting.

To ensure responsible use of land and forest resources for the maximum benefit of all stakeholders.

To develop plans that take account of the socio-economic and environmental impacts on the area.

To provide for efficient and environmentally responsible means of harvesting timber.

4.1 Site-Specific Forest-Use Planning

Forest-use decisions should be documented in the logging contract and in the forest harvesting plan.

Forest planners should determine the availability of both cadastral and physical land classification information, which could include:

Physical land classification

- Contours/Slope

- Soil classes

- Drainage patterns

- Forest type and distribution etc.

Cadastral land classification

- Cadastral boundaries (landuse/ownership)

- Conservation areas

- Ownership boundaries etc.

Most of this information can be adequately displayed as maps, which should be accurate, “corrected” and at a scale that provides sufficient detail for the purposes required. Individual countries have country-specific map scales for this purpose.

This planning information, combined with consultation with stakeholders, should be used to identify suitable areas for production and conservation. Where this is unavailable, a combination of field checking, aerial photo interpretation/satellite imagery and data interpretation will refine details for the planning process.

4.2 Planning Levels

Planning for forest harvesting is a multi-tiered process often comprising three levels (Figure 4-1). These levels are:

1. Long-term planning
2. Operational planning
3. Task planning.

Figure 4-1: Planning System Structure

4.2.1 Long-Term Planning

Long-term or strategic plans are broadscale advanced plans that are based primarily on available information. They serve as a guide for future activities in all operations. Because of the timescale involved, they are subject to change. More than one plan can be used to allow planning across a range of time periods. The long-term plan should include, yet not be restricted to:

identification of areas to be reserved for biodiversity conservation;

community land-use needs and requirements;

identification of areas to be reserved within proposed harvest areas (e.g., watercourse protection);

ensuring sustainability criteria are met through adequate regeneration;

the future harvest areas and an approximate time schedule for harvesting;

the approximate size and boundaries of each harvest area;

the approximate volumes and types of wood to be produced from each harvest area;

future road requirements to access harvest areas;

the approximate road locations and standards of roads required;

monitoring standards to ensure adequate rehabilitation of sites.

4.2.2 Operational Planning

Operational plans are developed for each individual harvest area, based mainly on site inspections. Maps of the harvesting block (coupe), showing a detailed plan of the activities to occur, form the main elements of the operational plan (Figure 4-2). These are to be based on the guidelines described in the Operational Planning Section of this Code. Major points to be covered in the Operational Plan include identifying:

harvest area (usual size of 50-100 ha), location and boundaries (which should follow topographic or natural features);

areas to be excluded from harvesting through prescriptions for flora and fauna protection, water quality protection, or other identified reasons;

silvicultural prescriptions to be adopted for different forest types;

methods of tree marking for selection and protection;

volume of wood to be removed by species and size classes;

location, design, construction, maintenance and closure of roads, landings, log ponds and skid tracks to minimise disturbance to forest, soil and water resources.

4.2.3 Task Planning

Task planning is undertaken by the harvesting company and describes responsibilities of staff and how work is to be carried out. It is appropriate that task plans be prepared after the operational plan has been developed.

Once the plans are developed by the concessionaire/contractor enterprise, the plans should be submitted to the relevant forest authority for approval.

The following table provides recommendations for each planning level.

Planning Procedure

Long-Term Planning

Operational Planning

Task Planning


1:100,000 - 1:25,000 scale base maps are often appropriate

Aerial photographs

Land ownership boundaries

Contour information


Future development plans

Prior land classification

Inventory (often 1% intensity)

1:10,000 scale maps are often appropriate.

The operational plan is a more detailed version of a section of the Annual Plan.

It deals with specific harvest areas just prior to logging.

Inventory (Between 10 and 100% intensity)

<1:5,000 scale maps often appropriate.

Short-term plan for a particular job, e.g. road construction.

Job marked in the field.

Briefing of operators by their supervisor.

May be input from local supervisory staff.

Inspection requirements

Low intensity, e.g. aerial inspection, ground inspection of key points.

Ground inspection to define operational details such as excluded area boundaries, watercourses, roads, major skid tracks and log landing locations.

Intensive ground inspection.

Operators must inspect the area before starting the harvesting.

Detail shown on the map

Boundary of licence

Key points (e.g. log ponds)

Broad roading plan (e.g. concession wide) with major roads

Areas previously harvested

Current operations

Future operations and order in which coupes will be logged

NOTE: These details are subject to change at the operational planning stage when more detailed ground inspections are made.

Boundary of operation

Excluded areas

Designated watercourses and buffers

Land ownership boundaries

Key points (e.g. log ponds)

Detailed roading plan for the harvest area; Major skid tracks and skid direction; Minor skid track pattern and direction; Log landings

Watercourse crossings (permanent and temporary)

Sites where operations do not adhere to the Code (for special inspection by Forest Authority Officer)

Plan shows the whole operation.

Critical aspects are highlighted and discussed thoroughly.

Details of written plan submitted with the map

Compliance with current planning guidelines

Proposed silvicultural system for harvesting

Location and design details for Log

Pond construction

Design for any new camps

Period for which the plan applies.

Species mix.

Anticipated volumes and net area.

Details of, and reasons for, any deviations.

Specifications for the job must be explained to operators.

- construction standard
- felling direction
- rehabilitation work
- special considerations, e.g. buffer zones

When is the plan submitted?


At least 3 months before operations in a particular area.

Immediately before the job commences.

Who sees the plans? (stakeholders)


Forest Department (head office and local supervisory staff)

Provincial Government

Camp Manager

Production Manager



Camp Manager

Production Manager


The Forest Officer immediately responsible for the operation will inspect the Operational Plan in the field with the Company representative.

Operators for specific tasks, e.g. road construction, felling, skidding.

Who approves the Plan?

Forest Authority

The responsible Local Forest Authority Officer may approve Operational Plans provided that they are in line with the intent of the approved Long Term Plan.

Decision is given following field inspection.

Major departures from the intent of the Long-Term Plan require the approval of the Forest Authority.

The Forest Planning Team of the Concession Company.

Decision given following field inspection.

4.3 Amendments to the Plans

Should any major changes to the fundamental approach be required (in either the long-term or operational plans), details of the proposed changes should be resubmitted to the Forest Authority.

Stakeholders are to be advised of approved departures from the plan once approved.

4.4 Planning Staff

The following table provides recommendations for effective forest planning.

Minimum requirements

It is suggested that a minimum planning team consist of a professional Forest Planner and two (2) assistants, employed by the concession holder for each harvest area of approx. 500 ha.


Experienced in:

planning large forest harvesting operations;
survey skills for boundary and road location;
map reading;
plan preparation and reporting;
able to communicate with management and operations staff.

Duties and responsibilities

Required to:

prepare and review long-term, strategic plans;

prepare and review short-term, operational plans;

present the plans and a briefing to staff of the Forest Authority, other relevant agencies and to landowners;

oversee the correct field implementation plans;

discuss problems that arise from the field implementation of the plan with field staff, landowners and representatives of the Forestry Authority and other relevant agencies;

conduct regular training sessions to instruct field staff in the needs of environmentally sound harvesting practices.

4.5 Plan Approval Process

The following steps are suggested for the planning approval process:

obtain base maps (topographic maps are most useful);
conduct forest reconnaissance (inventory);
develop plans in conjunction with forest owners and stakeholders;
submit plans to relevant government Forest Authority for approval;
obtain approval of plans;
execute plans.
Figure 4-2: Example of Operational Planning Map

4.6 Management Information Systems/Geographic Information Systems and the Planning Process

Many countries in Asia and the Pacific are now developing the capability to use a Geographic Information System (GIS) and computer-aided mapping for small- and large-scale harvesting operations. Acquiring and developing this information and technology can be undertaken in a number of ways. The recent trend in forest practice is to develop complete Management Information Systems (MIS) which provide the framework for all levels of planning. GIS is the basic tool for such an approach.

4.6.1 Mapping Systems

Generally a GIS is developed to hold both physical (e.g., contours, drainage patterns) and political (e.g., ownership boundaries, concession boundaries) land classification information. A GIS is best described as a series of referenced map layers that record spatial data such as contours and harvest boundaries. Associated with the spatial data are point attributes that include species, age and management history.

Information can be collected from:

past records/maps;
aerial photos;
satellite imagery;
ground surveys.
The GIS can then be used to retrieve data required for planning. This data can then be used to generate forest management and harvesting maps.

4.6.2 Forest Management Maps

Forest management maps show the relevant information required for a particular planning decision. They should be developed at the appropriate scale, which are often country-specific and for a given purpose.

4.6.3 Inventory

An inventory should be undertaken to assess the forest and determine the volume and type of wood available for harvest. This information allows planners to match required wood types and volumes with cutting areas. Inventory information can also be linked with GIS systems. To assist in the planning process, inventories should be designed to enable standard errors to be determined along with sampling intensities. However, many countries adopt a specific sampling intensity for the inventory, irrespective of forest variability.

4.6.4 Training

The competency of staff in the use of equipment and techniques required for inventorying forests, using GIS and MIS, etc. should be ensured through appropriate training programs.

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