Too wet for logging?

KMorrisD kmorrisd at
Fri Jan 23 14:28:51 EST 1998


Lately I've been adding a clause to bids and contracts for timber
sales (on all but the driest sites) to the effect that logging with
conventional equipment (skidders) will be limited to dry or frozen ground
conditions.  This is sort of code for `We want tracked harvesters and
wide-tired forwarders.`  We don't have any horse logging crews around here.  

This has become necessary because the ground doesn't freeze for very long
during the winter anymore and it's wetter during the
rest of the year too.  1996 was the wettest year on record here
in Massachusetts.  1997 wasn't so bad.  It looks like El Nino is
going to give us another wet year in 1998. 

Here's a recent quote from Ross Gelbspan, author of THE HEAT IS ON, concerning
the recent ice storm Up North and wet weather in general resuting from climate

`Tom Karl and a team of researchers from the National Climatic
Data Center (of NOAA) released a very important study last year.
They found that we are getting much more of our precipitation 
in severe, intense downpours due to atmospheric warming.`

`The mechanism is simple: warming accelerates the evaporation
of surface waters. It also expands the air to hold more water.
As the normal turbulence moves through the atmosphere, it 
triggers much more severe downpours.`

`From what I gather, it was an unusually large amount of 
freezing rain that fell in Canada and New England that 
accounted for the extraordinary ice build up.`

`That's the link I see between a documented change in our 
climate (from greenhouse gas buildup) and the disaster 
in Canada, NY and northern New England.`

So given climate change and wetter weather for the foreseeable
future, we need to adapt.  Loggers need to switch to low-impact
harvesting systems.  Actually this is already happening around
here big time and the demand is forcing equipment prices way up. 
Foresters need to switch to more restrictive contracts concerning
acceptable harvesting conditions.  Landowners need to understand that they may
have to choose between lower bids due to less competition and higher harvesting
costs, or ruts and soil 

This is all background to the bottom line:  You'll have to look
closely at your contract for language regarding acceptable
operating conditions.  If the language is absent or vague, you
may need to be more assertive with your forester.  You should
also ask for and get written assurance that the damages done last
week will be repaired (if possible) when ground conditions allow.

If the loggers are adamant about working and your forester
doesn't want to stop them, you may have to call upon your country
service forester for mediation.  If conditions in Georgia are
like conditions in Massachusetts, you need to understand that all
this wet weather is making loggers and foresters more than a
little edgey.  They/we have families to support and bills to pay.  It's tough
all around.   

Karl Davies, Consulting Forester
Northampton, MA

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