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Mihallaq Kotro,1 Panajot Koci1 and Avram Haxhi1

1 University of Agriculture, Faculty of Forest Sciences, Tirana, Albania.


In Albania, nearly 36 percent of the country is forested and hosts numerous beautiful and multifunctional natural resources.

Most forests - 1 million ha - and a volume amounting to almost 82 million m3 of standing trees, of which about 90 percent have a productive function, are located in the northern, north-eastern and south-eastern parts of the country, in remote areas with fairly high and steep lands. Because of the fact that these areas are far from rural or industrial centres and because road infrastructures are seriously lacking, access and penetration into forests is not easy and makes exploitation and silvicultural activities difficult.

We have actually altogether 3 500 km of roads network, with an average density of 3 m/ha, of which 65 percent constitutes high forests and the rest coppice. Around 2 300 km are macadam coated and allow annual circulation of transportation means, whereas the other part has a seasonal function, more especially from May to October.

As far as the technical situation is concerned, only half of the road network is in good condition, while the other half requires numerous and sometimes major management works.

The lack of a road network, the difficulty encountered when attempting to carry out silvicultural works or exploitation cuttings in old forests, explains the inadequate level of working methods and sometimes the use of a technology ecologically damaging and ill-adapted to the prevailing conditions of Albanian forest lands.

The experience gained to-date by many countries and the results obtained have confirmed the importance and functions of an optimum density road network for forest management and scientific treatment, through the practice of intensive and nature-oriented silviculture. In addition, a good forest road network makes possible the utilization of modern exploitation and transportation methods

As far as Albanian forests are concerned, the studies carried out indicate primarily the urgency of setting up an adequate road infrastructure which will permit to harmonize ecological, technical, economic and social factors.

These studies draw attention to the following facts: 70 percent of forests have to be very well served and need a good road network; in high forests the road network has to increased to 15-20 m/ha; considering the actual state of our forests, manual unloading proved more effective on average distances (hand rolling) of 100-120 m; tractors on distances of 250-300 m; skylines on distances of 400-600 m.

The main trends and prospects still to be attained are: estimate of ecological data for each sector of the forest economy, where their environmental function occupies the first rank; the extension of the road network in the form of main roadways taking the exact shape of the valley and with short roads within plots; wood unloading according to simple or combined technological schemes, in the first place manual rolling downhill, tractors, skylines, etc.; a higher mechanization level in road works; optimum values and economic efficiency of road density and unloading distances; positive contribution of the road exploitation for tourism, leisure and restful activities, etc.

In short, these trends are among our most ambitious objectives in forestry and for their accomplishment funds, working means and technical assistance are sought from foreign organizations.

In this manner, we would accomplish the extension of a properly designed and profitable road network capable of fulfilling its complex role with a special care for environment and nature.


Albania, a small country situated in the Balkans, counts shading and forests among its most splendid and multifunctional natural resources. Figures on its forest estate and on a few of its more significant aspects, are given below (Table 1):

Table 1

Area, total


million ha

Volume, total


million m3



million m3

Fuel wood


million m3

Conifer forests

176 000 ha


million m3

Deciduous forests

600 000 ha


million m3


255 000 ha


million m3

Natural annual growth


million m3

Annual working capacity


million m3

Forests are mainly situated in the northern, northeastern and southeastern parts of the country, in steep mountainous lands and present a rough configuration. At the same time, most particular is the fact that they stretch onto lands considered "remote", far from rural or industrial inhabited areas. The distance worsens even more the lack of road infrastructure, essential to forest accessibility and to entrance into these forests. Because they cover various functions, priority must be given to adequate installations also matching the requirements of silviculture.

Actually, a 3 500 km long road network has been implemented with the aim to serve forest natural resources in our country. About 65 percent - or 2 240 km - of high forests and the rest - 1 280 km - of coppice are concerned.

Out of 2 230 km of roads (total length), 63 percent are macadamized roads and permit the transportation of wood all year round, whilst the other part fulfils seasonal functions, mainly during the period May-October. As far as the technical situation is concerned, about 1 900 km, or 54 percent, are in a good condition, whilst the other part requires a lot of management work.

Compared to the total forest area, the road density index is very low, only 3.4 m/ha and in the case of productive forests 4.5 m/ha. These are mean values for this specific country whereas many particular economies have a higher density, thus rendering possible the access to mature forest, the application of appropriate techniques and technologies in silvicultural work, and distant transport of main and secondary forest products in close and distant areas. We can mention for example: Cukal, 44 m/ha; Vermosh, 26 m/ha; Bize, 20 m/ha, etc.

Table 2 gives the actual state of the road network, at the national level together with a few of its most typical characteristics.

From the data given in the table, concurrently to the low road network density, the value of other pertinent indexes is not satisfactory and limits activities in many forests, such as the introduction of silvicultural works, or does not allow particular forests to be multifunctional.

The serious technical situation of 40 percent of the road estate, the fact that only 37 percent of the existing roads are macadamized, which prevents the all-year-round circulation of transport means, are more important than the savings generated by 10 percent of the high forests with a 12.5 million m3 volume of standing trees, without a single linear metre of roads suitable for motor vehicles. All this requires appropriate and efficient care, attention and investments with regard to road infrastructures.

Together with the lack of a road network, the difficulty of practising fellings in old forests has also imposed an inadequate level of mechanization in the technological process and sometimes the use of technologies prejudicial to the environment and not well adapted to our forest lands, which are predominant on very steep mountain areas.

Up to now, in our country, the unloading and transportation of wood has been carried out, whenever near roads accessible to motor vehicles, by farm tractors equipped with chains, and very seldom with Wyssen and VLU-4 (10 original models) and skylines of the Gantner type which, together with other transport means such as hand-rolling, wooden buckets, mules, etc., allow to exploit an average volume of 1.5-2 million m3, of which 35-40 percent is timber.

It is known that the extension of the road network in forested areas dates back to the first decades of this century. Nevertheless, the existing results, gained from experience in many countries, have certified the importance and the role it plays as a basic constituent and a permanent element in the modern forest exploitation system and transportation process. In the meantime, it allows operations related to forest management and scientific processing of wood, as well as the practical operation of an intensive and naturalistic silvicultural programme.

Nowadays, the experience gained in many countries has demonstrated the validity of these methods. The positive results deriving from a good road infrastructure and the profitable solutions that follow show how important this extension is for the present forest economy.

The extension of a road network depends on several factors and their study looks into their ecological, technical and economic effects on nature

A particular attention is devoted to the extension of a road network in high forested areas. About 75 percent of our forests are situated on steep or abrupt lands starting with a 20 percent and more gradient, forested with beech trees, which are the dominant species in our country.

This difficult basic factor, up to a certain point, had exerted its influence on road infrastructure limitation in the forests and, when carried out, has caused heavy expenses.

Considering the ecological aspect - although it is commonly said that "road is a necessary damage, but the lesser" opinions about the extension of the road network in forests are situated at different levels but with a result which proves positive, rational and effective.

The construction of road infrastructures has positive effects on silvicultural works, as well as on exploitation, fellings, in view of agricultural activities, land reform or soil protection against erosion, avalanche control, etc. As far as the ecological aspect is concerned, negative aspects exist nonetheless regarding the protection of landscape or forest biotypes especially in the case of our forests.

A road network subject to extension works with a high density, where motor circulation prevails, always brings about negative and immediate effects on the forest environment.

On the contrary, a concrete extension of the road network, where data resulting from an ecological observation of each forest management aspect are well taken into account, allow such a forest, such a road, to fulfil each their environmental role and functions.

Regarding the technical aspect, the extension of the road network in our forests showed demands concerning their management and scientific usage, particularly for productive forests presenting long-term installation projects.

As there is a majority of old forests, cuttings, which are considered indispensable to silvicultural activities, were used as a continuous and complementary wood provision source that averages 2-2.5 million m3.

Considering the motorway a basic component of forest management works and a component of the modern transportation system in forested areas, and at the same time, technological solutions for two other phases of the complex exploitation process, the extension of a road network combined with the other available methods of unloading and transportation of felled trees, on storage or loading areas, near motorways (Figure 1).

Even though, in high forests, the road density is higher than somewhere else when compared to the average index value for the country, around 6 m/ha refers to the optimum average values that can be applied. Through the experience acquired by many European countries, (15-20 m/ha), it arises that the situation is not as expected and that it would have been desirable to emphasize intensive silvicultural practices.

Methods consisting in using manual or mechanical hauling for tree-length logs and mules for small-size logs have a large application in the international transportation fields. This technical solution said "in between" illustrates, with the help of internal transportation technological schemes, the repercussions of works carried out as far their efficiency is concerned.

At the same time, as it is impossible to build motor roads and, due to the limited number of mechanical equipment used to extract wood from our forests situated at a high altitude, the only technically sound solution is the extension of the road network in the form of main roadways, positioned according to valleys and hollows with short access roads (Figure 4). The accumulation of fellings in their vicinity, especially down the slope is also very important. Wood hauling on long distances between wide spaces and motorways having mean values ranging from 100 to 120 m for manual hauling, 250 to 300 m for mechanical hauling (tractors) and 400 to 600 linear metres for skylines are the results of these solutions.

Economic aspect. The road network under consideration with an optimum density of high technical characteristics and excellent structures, provided profitable returns for all types of works. They aim at easing man's access to sites, work technologies and extend their field of activities to environmental effects and repercussions on the protection of nature.

In spite of the results achieved during the construction of the road infrastructure, relatively high building costs, annual maintenance, recurrent repair costs have been experienced of average values twice as high as in some other European countries.

Strongly marked slopes and abrupt shapes in forested areas, the regulations applying to silvicultural methods through selective cuttings (at two or three different stages of evolution) have to be considered separately.

The organization and positioning of road networks with a high coefficient together with what follows are a few of the results achieved so far:

· earthworks as part of the accomplishment of the main road network;

· numerous constructive works such as support walls, small bridges, piping, etc.;

· considerable annual maintenance works, especially during winter months;

· large amounts of recurrent repairs, often reaching 60 percent of the entire structure;

· structures made of paving blocks or gravel, to allow all-year-round circulation of motor vehicles;

all this resulting in heavy expenses.

As far as the above-mentioned expenses are concerned, if we refer to Prof. G. Hippoliti's point of view (Italy) concerning the classification of forests according to the functions fulfilled by motorways in about 70 percent of our forests, we can understand the delay in setting road infrastructures in these areas. Consequently, we retain that our forested zones are well served and we insist on the necessity to enlarge the road network to 15-20 m/ha.

The accomplishment of a satisfactory road network, which will allow intensive silvicultural activities, obviously belongs to the future. Nevertheless, a project financed by the World Bank has been launched which anticipates the restoration of 35 km of the road network in high forests.

The economic influence of wood extraction on factors such as the reciprocal indirect dependence between road density and hauling distances determinates the configuration of the road network extension. This operation in the case of specific data, situations or factors (forest, land, transportation facilities, technologies and working regulations, road classification, etc.) allows an estimation of optimum values for the two indexes (density of road network/hauling distance) which will permit the extraction of each unity (m3) of wood with lower expenses.

Basing our argument on the above-mentioned laws and with the yielding capacity of forest road works in mind, during the last few years, studies have been carried out regarding the problems concerning access to the forests and extension of the road networks in our forest management. General information, not yet in final form, is given in Table 3.

In the course of the last few decades, experience has shown that, due to the low value of motorway density, wood had to be hauled on longer distances within plots. At the beginning, manual hauling on long distances, due to the lack of mechanization, was commonly done, whereas the gradual increase of technology relations between the extension of the road network and the hauling methods have become more efficient, leading to a 10-15 percent decrease of total costs for each unity of wood (m3).

The increase of economic efficiency of the road network as a consequence of the cost of wood extraction affects the level of works carried out and their construction which, in our country, has been and is still very low.

The positive effects which result from the increase of technology in wood extraction, together with a denser road network, will be higher if they lead to a major level of mechanization of construction works. In Albania, apart from a few tractors of bulldozer type, used to dig land and a few other means to transport materials, the technology indispensable to carry out specific tasks such as digging machines, superchargers, stone crushers, road rollers, transportation means, etc., is seriously lacking and it is highly recommended to consider the results obtained with such developed technology in some countries throughout the world.

The social aspect. The extension of the road infrastructure in mountain forested areas in Albania is considered a solution that not only provides assistance in settling natural forest balance but, as these forests, typical of Albania, are situated near rural centres, this assistance takes on double value, as it warrants social and economic development.

The solutions to this situation, i.e. connection between rural communities and motorways, easy motor circulation for the local population, delivery of farming products, exploitation of local mineral resources, etc., are all included in this context.

Access road by motor vehicles, especially the ones that go alongside and the ones that enter forests, apart from the important role they play in ensuring a proper service to the forest, allow and promote tourism, recreation and restful activities which go hand in hand with these developments.

Numerous examples illustrate the complex role of forest roads in our country. They can be found in the following regions: Korka, Permeti, Ersek, Elbasani, Fieri, Vlora, Kruja, Mati, Puka, Tropoja, Shkos, etc.

In lieu of postscript. A recently formulated national silviculture strategy, with an ecological-environmental character, for the future life of our forests, has as main objective the establishment of a good cover and the increase of forested areas, while ensuring the continuation of productive capacity and the conservation of biodiversities. Reaching these objectives, without any doubt, means the implementation of an additional road network, properly studied and profitable, always keeping in mind that its first priority should be to ensure a good service within the forests.

This is also a call for help addressed to organizations and various institutions, more particularly foreign ones, for financial support, equipment and technical assistance, which will allow us to build an efficient modern road network.


Bereziuc R. et al. 1995. Model operational pentru estimarea eficientei sociale si ecologice a retelei de drumuri forestiere. Revista Padurilor.

Cretu, O. and Constantin, S. 1995. Tendinte actuale de dotarii padurii cu drumuri forestiere. Revista Padurilor.

FAO. 1977. Planification des routes forestières et des systèmes d'exploitation. Rome.

Hippoliti, G. 1990. Le utilizzazioni forestali.

Hippoliti, G. 1976. Sulla determinazone delle caratteristiche della reta viabile forestale. L'Italia Forestale e Montana.

Kotro, M. et al. 1986. Routes forestières. Tirana.

Pestal, E. 1976. Trassierung und Bauausfuehrung von Wegen in der Schutzwaldregion. Internationaler Holzmarkt.

Qendro, K. and Kotro, M. 1980. Bases techniques-économiques de l'extension optimales du réseau routier dans les forêts. Revue Technique.

Samset, I. 1966 A pilot study of the logging and transport in the forest area.

Stergiadis, G. 1974. Timber transport problems in the mountainous forests of Greece.

Voiculescu, L. 1981. Procedeu de calcul pentru stabilirea limitei economice intrecolestorea si transportul lemnului. Silvicultura si eksploatarea padurilor.

Table 2. Albanian forests



(000 ha)

Volume (000/m3)





Forest resources, total






Conifer forests, total






Black Pine


















Other conifers






Deciduous forests, total






Beech trees


















Other deciduous trees






Shrubs, total


















Other shrubs






Productive forests, total






Annual increase (1.4 m3/ha)






Annual exploitation capacity






Protective forests, total






For soil, water, etc.




Nature parks






Hunting reserves











(From data up to 1/1/1995)

Table 3

Total Length

Total Area

Road Density

Forest road network

Road network

Technical state of the road network

High Forest



Without macadam






























Table 4

Average volume

Density (m/ha) for sloping land

Wood unloading distance




Up to 200

7 - 11

9 - 13

11 - 15

450 - 1000

200 - 400

9 - 15

11 - 20

13 - 22

300 - 800

On 400

12 - 20

14 - 23

15 - 28

250 - 600

Figure 1. Technological diagram

Figure 2. Diagram of a forest road network

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