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Top Notch Loggers

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 8, 2010

Private landowners in Missouri often need and want to manage the forested land on their property. They know that improving forests benefits wildlife as it assures forest health.

An important part of forest management—especially for wildlife—is creating habitat diversity. A forest containing mostly the same size trees with a closed canopy offers only one habitat type. It’s like telling someone that all they can eat are beans.

One of the best ways to create a forest that contains a more varied habitat menu for wildlife is to harvest some of the timber. A timber harvest that creates a variety of species and sizes of trees interspersed with openings is desired. As a bonus, cleaning out mature or defective trees also leads to increased growth of the remaining trees and results in new tree regeneration, creating forest sustainability.

Landowners benefit directly because they can sell the timber that’s removed.

Timber sales are a good deal all around, but to garner all possible benefits of the timber harvest it’s important for a landowner to choose a competent logger, one who can perform a low-impact timber harvest that doesn’t damage the remaining trees or habitat.

Logger Training

The Professional Timber Harvester Program has been training loggers in techniques to improve timber harvesting practices since the mid-1990s. The program, sponsored by the Missouri Forest Products Association with the assistance of the Missouri Department of Conservation, has now trained approximately 290 loggers.

Graduates have learned how to perform timber harvests without compromising forest health, soil, wildlife and forest aesthetics. PTH Loggers learn to directionally fell trees to prevent damage to remaining trees. They also learn how to protect and even enhance existing wildlife habitat.

Loggers must attend five days of “school” to complete the initial PTH training. Each year, trained loggers must take at least eight hours of continuing education that keeps them up-to-date on new management techniques in their industry. The PTH classes also give loggers a chance to share ideas and learn from others.

MFPA’s logger instructor Joe Glenn, a full-time logger, has trained loggers for 14 years in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. Glenn tells his trainees, “If you apply what you have learned in the PTH course and become good at doing the techniques, you will work more safely and end up saving time, which leads to money.”

Loggers learn how to increase future revenues for landowners by creating healthier forests through forest management.

Generally, they learn to use management techniques that favor low tree damage during timber harvest. A skinned tree, for example, becomes less valuable because the damage reduces the range of products that can be made from the log.

Damaging other trees during harvest can result in insect and disease problems which can lead to structural defects or even the death of a tree. In fact, the butt logs of many trees that are harvested show evidence of earlier injury. Some are from previous harvests, although fire and grazing also are responsible for many tree injuries.

Another aspect of protecting forests is keeping soil in place during a timber harvest. In the Midwest, timber harvesting activities result in only minor soil erosion. Studies have shown that nearly 90 percent of erosion from a harvest site comes from roads, log landings and skid trails.

Although some disturbance is unavoidable, carefully constructed water bars in roads or skid trails dramatically reduce erosion. When a logger properly conducts a timber harvest, the physical impact usually only lasts until leaves fall or vegetation starts growing on the affected area.

The Best Techniques

In the PTH course, loggers learn forestry Best Management Practices. BPMs are methods or techniques designed by experts that have proven to produce desired results.

“Forestry Best Management Practices, if applied correctly, will reduce soil erosion off logging operations to nearly nothing,” Glenn said.

Four sessions in the PTH course teach loggers techniques for directionally felling trees, which increases safety while creating less damage in the woods. Other sessions cover topics such as equipment maintenance, harvest planning and how to cut dangerous trees called spring-poles.

Loggers also learn about wildlife management and how it is important to leave snags, brush piles and den trees for wildlife. Continuing classes have included such topics as skidder training, lumber grading and advanced cutting, as well as logging competition events.

Choosing a PTH logger for a timber harvest makes good sense for landowners. These loggers are trained in management practices that benefit the environment and the forest landowner. They know how to reduce soil erosion, protect remaining trees and reduce the amount of time before the harvested area becomes aesthetically pleasing.

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