Skidding logs near Grant Lake on southern Vancouver Island.

Our recent trip to a managed forest on southern Vancouver Island illustrated just how important a carefully implemented harvesting operation is to a vigorously regenerating forest.

The silvicultural system on the property we visited combines single-tree selection with small patch clear-cut harvesting to strike a productive balance between profitability and the conservation values important to the forest owner.

Whatever objectives you have for your forest land, developing a well-thought-out harvesting plan is a key component of any successful forest management strategy. With this in mind, we’ve put together some harvesting BMP highlights from our trusted resource  The Handbook of Best Management Practices for Private Forest Land in British Columbia.

Timber Harvesting

Harvesting trees is the first phase of healthy forest renewal. Carefully managed harvesting operations provide ideal conditions for vigorous regeneration. Many species, both naturally regenerated and planted seedlings, benefit from disturbed mineral soil and direct sunlight.

Planning Your Harvesting Operation

Executing an environmentally responsible and economically efficient timber harvest operation, especially one near or in sensitive areas, requires a thorough understanding of the land, the trees, the capabilities of the timber harvesting equipment, and the markets for timber products.

A few suggestions for getting started:

  • Identify stream crossing locations where impact to streams is likely to be minimal.
  • Carefully plan the harvest operation to minimize the number of crossings of lower risk streams required by machines.
  • Use an operational map to identify sensitive areas: riparian zones, ephemeral streams, unstable slopes and erosive soils.
  • Once identified, plan appropriate harvesting systems for these areas. Some situations may require special harvesting equipment and/or techniques.


Dale Chumley of Malloch Logging running the yarder for a cable harvesting system on private managed forest land.

 Harvesting Best Management Practices (BMPs)

  • Ensure treatment area boundaries are clearly understood and/or marked.
  • Consider cable or aerial yarding systems to protect steep, sensitive sites such as stream banks, gully walls and potentially unstable terrain. When in doubt, consult a professional engineer or geoscientist.
  • Employ directional falling and yarding techniques to protect riparian zones.
  • Manage ground disturbance caused by ground-based machinery to meet the management requirements of relevant legislation (particularly when crossing gullies or sensitive sites).
  • Take precautions to minimize excessive rutting in easily disturbed soils, consider repairing ruts with the machine before leaving the site.
  •  Monitor streams. Carefully remove 
inadvertently introduced harvesting waste and divert residue from streams to ensure the flow of water through drainage structures.
  • Protect and maintain all drainage structures concurrent with harvesting activities or as dictated by site conditions.
  • Consider weather conditions when planning harvesting activities.
  • Use locally appropriate, alternative techniques to minimize rutting and soil compaction, and to manage natural drainage patterns; for example:
    • defer harvesting until freeze-up;
    • apply debris mats on skid trails;
    • use high flotation equipment;
    • concentrate logs in felling and forwarding operations to minimize the number of skid trails;
    • employ track support structures for tracked equipment machines.

 Harvesting Actions to Avoid:

  • Locating log decks in sensitive areas.
  • Removing culverts from stream channels following logging when the crossing will be used within ten years.
  • Using soil fill, either alone or in combination with woody debris fill, for skid trail stream crossings.
  • Avoid skidding:
    • on sensitive soils upslope from a stream channel;
    • straight up and down on steep hillsides if mineral soil is exposed. Where this type of skidding is unavoidable, use BMPs such as water bars and soil stabilization;
    • across perennial or large intermittent streams, except over an adequately designed and constructed ford, culvert, or bridge;
    • over small intermittent or ephemeral streams during wet conditions, unless the banks are protected by placing woody material in the water course.
If you have any questions about how best to approach your harvesting operation, or maybe you have a suggestion to add, leave us a comment below.