harvester processingWelcome to the first post in our “Harvesting Planning” series.

Harvesting is one of the most important phases in the forest management cycle because it sets the stage for the creation of a new forest.

If the harvest isn’t done properly, subsequent management steps become about cleaning up or correcting damage, rather than achieving your overall plan.

Harvesting is also the major revenue-generating phase in forest management and a key development activity in the woodland.

The decision to harvest is usually based on one, or a combination, of the following reasons:

  • Replace one crop with another
  • Cash in some or all of the value of the current crop
  • Recover some otherwise natural mortality losses from, for example, insect attack, root rot, windthrow or 
  • Improve the quality and value of the current crop

The process you use to tend, harvest and replace a forest is called a silvicultural system. Silvicultural systems are classified according to the method you use to remove the mature crop and establish the new one.

Even-aged stands are maintained by clearcutting, seed-tree and some shelterwood systems. Uneven-aged stands are maintained by selection system. Each of these systems represents a strategy for the complete cycle of the stand.

The silvicultural system you choose depends on the forest you have and the forest you wish to create, as well as your own management objectives.

Your harvesting schedule is an expression of the following considerations:

When to cut:

  • How old is the stand?
  • How much can it be expected to increase in volume and value?
  • How shall I decide whether to cut it now or later?
  • Is natural regeneration planned, and if so, when is the next good seed year expected?
  • What time of year do I harvest: in the winter on frozen ground, in summer when the soil is dry and stable?

How much to cut:

  • What are the harvesting objectives—stand replacement? Cash flow?
  • Is the area being salvaged after fire, insect or disease infestation?
  • What are the management objectives for the area regarding other uses?
  • What are the constraints regarding harvest?
  • Are there other economic, social or environmental issues to incorporate in your harvesting plans?
  • Any fish-bearing streams, deer or elk winter range, visual quality objectives or community watersheds?

Which silvicultural system:

  • Are the trees all mature or of varying age classes?
  • Are there particular products ready for harvest?
  • Is the stand healthy or are there pockets of disease or insects?
  • Is the species mix appropriate for my personal goals?

Which logging methods:

  • What are the terrain conditions?
  • Are the soils subject to compaction or erosion?
  • What is the average slope?
  • What equipment do I have and how could it be converted for logging?
  • How large is the area?
  • What volume of timber will be logged?
  • What access is in place?
  • Is the appropriate equipment available with trained operators?

Which species to regenerate and by which method:

  • What is the current species mix?
  • Which species are appropriate to the site? Which species are favoured?
  • What products are desired?
  • What financial and time resources am I willing to commit?
  • What are the cost and environmental implications of natural regeneration versus planting?

As you can see there are a lot of questions to consider when you’re planning your harvest operation. Please stand by for future posts in the “Harvest Planning” series to help you think about how to answer some of the when to cut, how much, and according to what system questions.

If you can’t wait, you can find all the information excerpted above, and more, in the complete online document: A Non-forester’s Guide to Small-scale Forestry in British Columbia. As always, thanks to the authors for letting us share the information.