Under the prevailing conditions, the observed forest operation could by definition be called "low impact" because of the extraction rate of approximately one tree per hectare. However, as with any harvesting operation, gains are possible toward the objective of sustainable forest practices. By comparing measured results of the operation to the recommendations outlined in the FAO Model Code of Forest Practices, the following conclusions are observed:
· Within the confines of the study, the techniques, equipment, and labour applied to the operation were adequate for the harvesting condition.
· Harvest planning in the study area is relatively well developed in relation to the resources available. The lack of accurate topographic maps, as a basis for planning the operation, undoubtedly resulted in increased road building costs, extraction costs, soils damage, and residual stand tree damage.
· The engineering task represented enormous effort in this remote area given seasonal constraints. The road system provided adequate access to the area and utilised natural terrain features to protect water systems. The total land area dedicated to road and landing construction was low for operations of this size but relatively high as measured on a per tree basis. Observations indicate that cross drainage systems on some steep road sections could be improved to increase soil stability.
· Cutting crews were hampered primarily by the difficulty of locating harvestable trees and opening skid trails to the felling sites. There is some indication that crew safety, damage to the useable stem, residual stand damage, and extraction production rates would benefit from improved directional felling techniques.
· Extraction efficiency, using crawler tractors for minor excavation and short hauls and wheeled skidders for long hauls, proved adequate to the task. Excessive blading in the skid trails and short winching distances may have resulted in greater exposure of mineral soil and increased residual stand damage. The same practices may improve conditions for worker safety.
· Landing sites covered a minimum area due to the long skidding range of the wheeled skidders. These high impact areas should be monitored frequently for sedimentation and pollution. Efficient utilisation of each tree was limited more by a narrow range of product classes than by the skill of landing workers.
· Transport of logs from the landing to mill site was not considered part of the study but the relative efficiency of this operation is necessarily considered in harvest planning and assessment. A large share of total harvesting cost is attributed to truck transportation and can put pressure on all phases of the forest operation.
· Harvest assessment is clearly a high priority for this concession. An evaluation and adjustment process should be comprehensive and be conducted at regular intervals on a concession of this size. Ideally, an assessment should be a measurement of the success of the harvest plan. Even in the absence of comprehensive planning, an assessment can identify problems of waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary impact to the resources.
The impact of this type of forest management lies not only in the visible effects caused by operating heavy equipment. Unseen impacts with high potential for positive or negative effects lie in the growth dynamics of the future forests on this site. Commercial and non-commercial species in the residual stand and regeneration will be affected. Future operations should concentrate on developing management plans that ensure the sustainability of forest products and the total forest system.
The final decision on a commitment to Sustainable Forest Management in this region will be driven mainly by economic considerations. Additional operating costs will have to be balanced with higher returns, reduced costs elsewhere, higher efficiency, or be financed by the public. The government will have to decide the relative benefits of Sustainable Forest Management, such as higher commercial and biological value of the forest, when balanced against the immediate needs of the government, the private enterprise and the people of the region.