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Environmental Effects and Economics of Mechanized Logging for Fuel Reduction in Northeastern Oregon Mixed-Conifer Stands

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Fuel reduction by mechanical thinning and removal was studied in mixed-conifer stands in northeastern Oregon between 1995 and 1997. A single-grip harvester was coupled with either a forwarder or a skyline yarding system, and operational economics, fuel reduction, stand damage, soil disturbance, effects on soil biota and down-woody material were measured in three replicates of paired stands. After logging with the harvester, the two log-extraction systems achieved nearly equivalent fuel reduction with 45.7 and 46.8% mass reduction by the forwarder and skyline system, respectively. Fine-woody fuel increased slightly in all units, but mass of heavy fuels decreased. Most mass reduction in the forest floor occurred in the duff layer with 56 and 49% reduction in forwarder and skyline units, respectively. Reduction in stem density and basal area were similar for the two extraction systems; in forwarder units stem density was reduced by 61.6% and basal area by 55.4%, while in skyline units stem density was reduced by 66.5% and basal area by 51.1%. Of seedlings and trees examined, 32% had noticeable damage after harvest. Damage included bole wounding (38.9% of damaged stems), bark scraping (35.0%), wrenched stems (28.9%), broken branches (26.5%), broken terminal leaders (15.4%), and crushed foliage (4.1%). More damage occurred to residual large trees than to seedlings. Both log-extraction systems met the silvicultural prescription of reducing fuel and protecting residual large-diameter western larch, Engelmann spruce, Douglas-fir, and lodgepole pine. While fuel, stem, and basal area reduction lowered fire risk from a model 10 to a model 8 in all stands, large-woody material for wildlife also changed. Mean log length was lower in harvested units relative to unharvested controls, but this did not decrease occupation of logs by ants or the activities of woodpeckers feeding on them. Of 37 logged hectares, 1.4% (0.5 ha) of the soil area was compacted, mostly in forwarder units, within landings, and within trails close to landings. The percent area with displaced soil varied from 5 to 43% among units and was located within trails or in intertrail areas between the trails. Light displacement of soil resulted in a short-term increase in the abundance of soil microarthropods. The effects of compaction on litter microarthropods was more persistent, with lower numbers in compacted litter a year after harvest. While revenue was similar for forwarder and skyline units ($68 vs. $70/metric ton, respectively), total operational costs were $81/metric ton in the skyline units, compared to $46/metric ton in the forwarder units. These results are discussed in the context of options available to managers for balancing fuel reduction needs with both environmental and economic constraints. West. J. Appl. For. 18(4):238–249.

Keywords: Fire risk reduction; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; forwarder; natural resource management; natural resources; single-grip harvester; skyline yarding; soil compaction

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: Department of Forest Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 97331, 2: Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, University of California, Davis, CA, 95616, 3: Department of Forest Engineering, OR State University, Corvallis, OR, 97331, 4: Forestry Sciences Lab, PNW Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR, 97331, 5: Forestry Sciences Lab, PNW Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Seattle, WA, 98105, 6: Public Works Department, P.O. Box 1083 Corvallis, OR, 97339, 7: Forestry and Range Sciences Lab, PNW Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 1401 Gekeler Lane, La Grande, OR, 97850,

Publication date: 2003-10-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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