Reduced impact logging

"If forest resources are to be available for future generations, harvesting techniques must incorporate measures to reduce the impact of extracting timber."

The term 'reduced impact logging' (RIL) began appearing in literature in the early 1990s and was quickly adopted and promoted in both scientific journals and news bulletins. The theory that it was possible to reduce the impacts of logging was embraced by both foresters and the general public but perhaps more importantly by leading environmental organizations.

Reduced impact logging is a method of harvesting trees with modest residual damage and degradation of the forest site through the use of pre-harvesting, harvesting and post-harvesting planning and design. The policy implications of reduced-impact logging include the incorporation of appropriate management practices into long-term sustainable forest management goals. RIL is not a fixed prescription but rather an adaptation of the best possible harvest techniques to local site and market conditions.

Some essential phases of RIL are:

  • pre-harvest inventory and mapping of individual crop trees;
  • pre-harvest planning of roads, skid trails and landings to provide access to the harvest area and to the individual trees scheduled for harvest, while minimizing soil disturbance and protecting streams and waterways with appropriate crossings;
  • pre-harvest vine-cutting in areas where heavy vines connect tree crowns;
  • construction of roads, landings and skid trails so that they adhere to engineering and environmental design guidelines;
  • the use of appropriate felling and bucking techniques, including controlled felling, cutting stumps low to the ground to avoid waste, and optimal cross-cutting of tree stems into logs in a way that maximizes the recovery of useful wood;
  • the winching of logs to planned skid trails and ensuring that skidding machines remain on the trails at all times;
  • where feasible, using yarding systems that protect soils and residual vegetation;
  • conducting a post-harvest assessment in order to provide feedback to the concession holder and logging crews and to evaluate the degree to which RIL guidelines have been successfully applied.

last updated:  Wednesday, April 23, 2008