Chapter 8 Harvesting assessment

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What it is
Guiding principles
Potential consequences of inadequate harvesting assessment
Recommended practices

What it is

A harvesting assessment is a systematic check undertaken to determine the degree to which a harvesting operation has followed the harvesting plan and met its stated objectives while complying with established standards of practice. Such assessments may be undertaken while the operation is still under way (in-process assessment) or after its completion (postharvest assessment).

Guiding principles

Harvesting assessments provide feedback about the quality of forest harvesting operations. They may be undertaken regularly for every harvesting operation or for selected operations chosen at random. They are an essential requirement of sustainable forest management.

Harvesting assessments should be carried out by qualified staff in the presence of the managerial and supervisory personnel responsible for the harvesting operation.

In-process assessments permit the observation of workers and equipment in action and allow immediate corrective steps to be taken if needed. Postharvest assessments concentrate on the measurement of impacts and the degree to which standard practices have been followed. Such assessments should result in a written report that is to be provided to the forest management company or agency, relevant government authorities and the logging crews.


Harvesting assessments should primarily:
- check the effectiveness of techniques used in directional felling and crosscutting of trees;
- determine whether cutting and extraction operations have followed the harvesting plan;
- quantify timber volume and value losses resulting from poor working practices such as leaving excessive stump heights, ineffective directional felling, poor crosscutting practices and improper extraction methods;
- compare the actual location and standards of roads, landings and skid trails with those in the harvesting plan and determine the reasons for any discrepancies;
- assess the condition of roads, landings and skid trails, especially with respect to drainage and rutting;
- quantify soil disturbance caused by the operation;
- predict the effects of the operation on future crop trees, regeneration, other vegetation and wildlife;
- determine whether protected areas, buffer strips and sites of cultural or landscape significance have remained intact;
- check whether equipment and working techniques have complied with safety regulations;
- determine whether used oil, chemicals and other waste and contaminants were properly disposed of;
- inspect work camps to determine whether health, sanitation and safety regulations were properly implemented.

Potential consequences of inadequate harvesting assessment

As a result of inadequate postharvest assessment:
- managers and government authorities will not know whether the harvesting operation achieved its objectives;
- poor harvesting practices will not be corrected and will result in environmental degradation, economic losses, high accident rates and low morale among the work crews.

Recommended practices

- Carry out the postharvest assessment after the harvesting operation has been completed and sufficient time has elapsed for major impacts to appear. This usually means eight to 12 months after the operation, including a full rainy season. Waiting this length of time will allow for more precise assessments of erosion problems, regeneration and the survival status of damaged trees. The assessment should be completed not more than two years after the end of the operation so that any corrective action needed can be initiated in a timely fashion.

- Compare the actual locations of roads, landings and skid trails with the locations indicated on the harvest plan. Note and explain any differences, possibly by interviewing the construction or operating crews.

- Assess the condition of roads, landings and skid trails. Permanent roads should be maintained in good condition; temporary roads and skid trails should be closed and cross-drains installed. If necessary, earth roads, skid trails and landings should be revegetated with grass or other ground cover.

- Determine the percentage of the operating area disturbed by roads, landings, skid trails and cable corridors. Measure average disturbance widths and compare them with standards specified in the harvest plan. Note any areas where enrichment planting or other rehabilitation is needed.

- Check whether buffer strips remain intact and water courses are free from excessive felling debris.

- Measure stump heights and assess logs that were crosscut from felled trees but left in the forest. Determine whether stumps and abandoned logs could have contributed commercial timber. If so, establish the reasons the timber was left by consulting with the supervisor or the logging crew.

- Identify any trees that were marked for felling but not felled. Determine the reason why such trees were left by interviewing the cutting crew responsible for that area of the operation.

- Locate any trees that were marked for retention but instead were felled or otherwise destroyed or damaged. If damaged, assess their condition and determine whether silvicultural treatments are needed to correct the situation.

- Inspect equipment to determine whether it corresponds to operational requirements and complies with safety regulations.

- Determine whether equipment operators have been certified as qualified to operate the equipment to which they have been assigned.

- Check the availability, suitability and use of personal protective equipment.

- Communicate the results of the harvesting assessment to the relevant authorities and to management, as well as to the harvesting crews. Financial incentives for good work, and penalties for work that does not meet standards, will reinforce the organization's commitment to sustainable harvesting practices.

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