Minimum Impact Logging?

Feller-gatherer harvesting trees in the FSC- and SFI-certified forests of the Adirondacks for Finch Paper

Recently, I blogged about a trip I made to Finch Paper in Glens Falls, NY, where I got to see sustainable forestry and integrated, environmentally sensitive papermaking in action. One of the most powerful images in my mind from the trip was watching the harvesting of the logs themselves.

One might think I was impacted by the ugliness of the process. In fact, it was the opposite. While many of us have images in our minds of ravaged forests with open clear-cuts and churned up topsoil, its lush vegetation replaced with ugly ruts from logging truck tires, what I saw was something completely different.

Once off the logging roads, the group of us walked along some squashed underbrush to watch the harvesting in action. We walked the path where the feller-gatherer had traveled, following it up the mountain to where the logging machine was at work. What struck me was not the devastation but the lack of it.

As you can see from these pictures (which I took on the trip), we were walking over ferns, small trees, and other ground-level vegetation that had been rolled over by the feller-gatherer and popped back up. There were some large ruts in the gulley where the machine had trouble maneuvering from downward travel to upward travel, but otherwise, there was minimal impact to the soil.

The feller-gatherer itself was extremely precise. The logger maneuvered the hydraulic arm like a teenager on a video game. The precision with which the arm swung, lifted, and twisted made the machine look almost alive. It made a swift, precise cut on the tree marked by the forester, then moved on to the next. It gathered as many trees as its gatherer could hold, then laid them down on the ground to be collected later.

Once it was finished, the machine bounced back along the trail and out of the woods, leaving the forest looking largely like it had before it arrived.

It wasn’t the image of logging I’d had in my mind. Today’s sustainable forestry is a different process than logging at large. I must say, I was impressed.