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Small Parcel Fuel Reduction with a Low-Investment, High-Mobility Operation

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Fuel reduction treatments are especially urgent near homes, where a stand replacement fire would also endanger property and human lives. However, the forested properties associated with homes are often too small for cost-effective mechanized fuel treatment performed with traditional methods and equipment. This project tested a small rubber-tracked skid-steer specially modified for forestry operations that can provide all the functions of a complete harvesting system. The skid-steer can, alternately,carry a hot saw for tree felling, a processor to delimb and buck felled trees, a brush cutting head for mastication, and a log-grapple to transport logs and trees. All of the equipment can be transported on a trailer pulled by a heavy pickup truck, which makes for fast, economical movement between project sites. The study confirmed that this system is well suited to small-parcel conditions around home sites and performs best on even terrain, moderate slopes, and softwood trees with a dbh between 5 and 8 in. It took from 7 to 15 productive machine-hours ac−1 to perform all treatment phases (i.e., mastication, felling, processing, and skidding). The occurrence of delays significantly increased this figures, bringing the average 9.7 productive hours ac−1 to 13.5 worksite hours. Treatment cost was estimated at $480 ac−1 and $1,146 ac−1 for whole-tree and cut-to-length harvesting, respectively. In addition to offering a reasonable treatment cost, the system has the advantage of requiring a low investment, which allows small-scale enterprises to get into the business.

Keywords: fuel reduction; mastication; small tree harvest; thinning; wildland-urban interface

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-10-01

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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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