As the cooler weather sets in, it signals a shift in operations for forestry and logging professionals—beginning with a shift in altitude.
“We actually can operate in the wintertime,” explains Chris Chase, Timber Manager for Timber Products Company. In the fall, loggers with the Michigan-California Timber Company move operations from steeper ground to the flatter portions of the forest. In areas where drainage is good and a reliable freeze can be counted on to support machinery without soil compaction, business can continue unabated.
Back in those steeper areas, the focus is on hunkering down for spring. Road drainage structures are checked for blockages or other problems to ensure that when the fall rains come they do not erode the soil. “We make sure everything’s buttoned up from the season’s logging operations and any storm damage from the previous winter is completed before we get into the next wet season,” Chase said.
The fall is also an active time for planting. In fact, foresters plant approximately 25 percent of their trees in the fall. Plantings are focused on the high elevation sites that will be buried by up to 10 feet of snowpack most of the long winter. The newly planted trees will have time to develop their roots while an insulating cover of snow protects the young plants from dry winter winds and provides necessary moisture. Once the snow melts, those well-established trees will be ready to take advantage of the ideal growing conditions of late spring.
With the possibility of inaccessibility due to snow, foresters are working diligently through the fall to complete their fieldwork. “If they’re writing a harvest plan for a high elevation site, they’re really scrambling to get all the fieldwork done,” Chase said. “We do have snowmobiles and an ATV that allow us access to a lot of our ownership, even in the wintertime, but there are portions we really don’t access once the snow lays in.”
Logging operations might slow in the winter, so Timber Products ensures it has a big log inventory at its facility in Yreka, Calif. By October’s end, inventory will include as much as a 5-month supply of logs.
“You never know how bad the winter is going to be,” Chase explained. “It’s better to plan for the worst and ensure we’ve got enough log volume on hand to meet customer demand all the way through the winter and spring, regardless of how rough a winter it is.”
Of course, Chase adds that the horizon looks clear of disruptions and the company is prepared to hunker down for winter no matter what the season brings.