Rut Prevention 

            The spring of 2011 was wet.  Combine a wet spring with a relatively short winter season with frozen ground and it has created a short window from which to implement harvesting and forwarding timber on sensitive soils.  The annual FSC certification program audit occurred in June and nine woodlots with recent harvesting activity were visited.  Results varied, with instances of excellent practices reflected through preparatory brush matting and trail planning and other instances of severe rutting across the entire harvest area.

              Under current climatic conditions, it will be impossible to prevent and eliminate all rutting but there is a need for awareness and future prevention. 

               NSLFFPA representatives intend to track all the rutting occurrences from the spring of 2011 and monitor any mitigation measures taken over time but quite simply, once rutting has occurred, the damage has been done.

 Why is it bad?

               Other than obvious aesthetic reasons, rutting compacts a large amount of soil into a very small space, eliminating available pore space for rooting, water and nutrient flow.  On a larger scale, the compacted ruts create an impediment to the natural flow of water, lowering overall site productivity by pooling water in some areas and decreasing water and nutrient availability to other areas.  While vegetation may re-establish and grow, it is likely that the productivity for the site has decreased.

 Hazard Rating

               Certain areas are obvious as to their sensitivity, such as flood plains, stream crossings (and approaches) and obvious wet zones  in depressions and the base of slopes.  Vegetation types may also provide insight, such as black spruce, tamarack larch, white ash and alders which grow on wet or imperfectly drained soils.  It is the soils themselves, however, which provide the best indication of hazard rating.  Some soils have properties which allow them to bounce back quickly, others may compress readily under wet conditions but have properties which allow them to remain quite firm after only a day or two of dry weather.  Clay type soils have a high hazard rating but may occur under a site which appears well drained.  It is important to properly assess each site and determine its hazard rating prior to planning activity.

 Prevention and Best Management Practices.

               Once a hazard rating has been established for a site, appropriate measures can be taken to prevent rutting in harvesting and forwarding operations.

 1.  Timing - Areas scheduled for harvest can be timed to completely avoid wet weather on sensitive soils or determine the acceptable level of moisture under which to operate.  It may be acceptable to harvest in wet weather but not to forward wood.

2.  Layout - The predominate rutting occurred on extraction trails, forwarding wood.  Taking time for the proper layout of extraction trails will help rather than blindly feeling it out with the machine.

3.   Ground prep - Brush matting works.  Prepping sensitive areas with brush matting has shown to be extremely effective.  It takes a little bit of extra work, but can save the soils and machine wear.

4.   Stream crossings: Use temporary stream crossings and prepare approaches with brush matting to avoid siltation into streams.


               Even under the best circumstances with a high level of planning, rutting can still occur.  The single most important prevention measure is the relationship with the person on the ground.  Involve yourself in planning - timing and layout and have a written contract which refers to sensitive areas and unacceptable levels of rutting so that mitigation measures can be taken in case rutting occurs.

 - Peter











Silviculture Funding Tips

The current silviculture funding system for private land can be quite daunting because it is so complicated. I will try and explain how the system works, and also try and give somet tips on how to best navigate the system to get silviculture work done on your woodlot.

Under the current system, anybody buying more than 10,000 cubic metres of wood a need is required to report what land ownership (small private, crown, industrial) the wood came from as well as the county, on an annual basis. They are also required to carry out 3 ‘credits’ worth of silviculture on private and industrial land for every cubic metre of wood they purchased or cut. Typically a ‘credit’ is roughly a dollar, but DNR will always tell you they are not the same. The company can either choose to manage getting the required silviculture work done themselves, or pay the money to the province. Almost all companies will arrange to have the work done themselves.


Depending on the year, DNR will help out the companies by covering some portion of the $3 cost. In recent years this has ranged from covering 1/3 to close to the full cost. However, the companies are required to do the silviculture work each year, regardless of what the funding level is.


A company gets credit for doing silviculture work by submitting to DNR a shapefile (GPS map) of the area, along with the details of the work done. DNR assumes the work is OK up front, but does randomly check 10% of the sites 2 years after the work is submitted. If the work is not up to spec then the company that submitted it loses the credit for that specific silviculture job.


A smaller portion of the total amount of silviculture funding that gets carried out is done by ASF (Association for Sustainable Forestry). This is an arms-length association that is funded through government to carry out silviculture. ASF gets its funding each year from the government, and is typically required to target treatments such as Category 7 (uneven-aged management).


Clear as mud? So, what do you do if you have work you want done? The first thing to do is decide whether you want to do the work yourself or have a contractor do it. An important thing to consider when deciding whether you want to do it yourself is whether you, or someone you know, is capable of producing the ‘shapefile’ required by DNR. This is a fairly complex technology, and requires specialized equipment. That being said, more and more people are learning to do it, and it is not as big a stumbling block as it used to be. There are small contractors and forestry people who will do this on the side for a fee.


If you are doing the work yourself, and it is a category 7 treatment, ASF is a good bet for getting funding. Because their total funding is based on how much category 7 they do, they are always anxious to find people who want to do these treatments. ASF also funds some, but not all, other treatments.


If you want to do the work yourself, and you are comfortable that submitting a shapefile will not be an issue, you can also talk to a wood buyer in your area. Expect to get a bit of run-around though as they will prefer to work with larger contractors since this is much more efficient for them. However, if you have sold wood to them in the past they should be co-operative, if not particularly helpful.


If you prefer to get a contractor to do the work, the best thing to do is contact a contractor directly. This is because the wood buyers prefer to deal with them to get the program done as it is the most efficient way for them. If you do not know one that works in your area, then you can either contact ASF or a major wood buyer in your area and they will be able to point you in the right direction.


If you do not have a lot of area to treat, you may run into the problem of not being able to find a contractor who wants to do the work. This is because there is currently more demand for silviculture work than there is funding, so silviculture contractors can be a bit choosy about the work they do. Unfortunately there is not much you can do about this. However, if you contact ASF or a wood buyer in your area they may know of a smaller contractor, or one just starting off, who may not be as picky.


Another important consideration is the question of timing. Typically you are going to need to get into the ‘budget queue’ to get your funding approved. When you talk to someone who funds silviculture be sure to ask about what their budgeting year is. If you can get your request in before they do the next years budget you are going to have a much better chance of getting approved. This is particularly important for planting, which is very time sensitive. Be sure to apply for the funding as soon as you have an area that you know is going to need planting.


I hope this was helpful … A lot of work is getting done under the current funding program, but it can be very confusing for a landowner how to access it. It if you have any questions or thoughts be sure to drop us a line or leave a comment.




Whats the Deal on Biomass?

A question we get a lot from landowners is ‘Whats the deal on biomass … Is that going to be a good thing or what?’ Well, the definitive answer, in my opinion, is ‘It depends’.

From an economic point of view, it will likely be positive for woodlot owners. It is a new market for a product that we did not have before. I’m sure there will be a lot of uncertainty around price, both for buyer and sellers, for the first while. However, in the long run the price will need to be high enough to get enough wood to keep it running. And unlike paper and lumber, demand for energy is not likely to do anything but go up.

From a forest sustainability point of view, the question is a little trickier. It’s kind of like a chainsaw … A very useful and powerful tool if used correctly; dangerous if not. Biomass has a lot of potential to be beneficial because of the role it can play in silviculture, restoration and salvage.

Many silviculture treatments rely on removing the poorer quality trees to give more room for the better ones to grow. Biomass can provide a market for these lower quality trees that was not there in the past. This can make some treatments more economically viable and result in more silviculture work getting done. Similarly, restoration work often depends on removing unfavourable trees to allow room for the favourable, more appropriate ones. Again, biomass can play a role in providing a market for some of these lower quality trees.

Biomass produced on a member woodlot as part of a selection harvest

Another important role and one we don’t hear as much about, is the roll of biomass in salvage operations. A drive around the countryside it’s hard not to notice the amount of dead and dying balsam fir and white spruce. Having a market for this will facilitate cleaning it up, and getting started on a more resilient forest. And, as our climate continues to change, this will likely become more and more important.

However, it is also possible that biomass will allow for large-scale clear cutting of hardwood stands; prevented in the past due to a lack of market. Were this to happen, particularly with tolerant hardwood stands, it would be both an ecological and economic tragedy.

So, is biomass good or bad? Well neither really; it is simply one more product. And what is important is not the product, but the forest management decisions that go into producing it. Any product can be produced as a result of poor forest management. What is important is basing the harvest on a good forest management plan, and sound silviculture practices. 

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