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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.

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Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.

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  1. Thanks for this insight. I definitely think logging conjures clear-cut images to most (yours truly included), so this story is important to get out there.

  2. Thanks! I had the same opinion myself until I saw it in progress. You might be interested in my post on sustainable forestry a week or so back (http://tinyurl.com/2cn4wwt). Understanding the harvesting methods, combined with seeing it “live” in progress, transformed my opinions of the process. Of course, there are a lot of companies out there doing it wrong, too, which drives home the importance of buying FSC-, SFI-, and other certified papers to ensure that everyone along the supply chain is doing it right.

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