excavatorAccess is vital to a well-managed woodland. That’s why we borrowed from one of our favourite resources to help you think about planning your road network.

In our first post, Stand Tending 101: Planning Your Road Network, we outlined some basic steps to help determine what your road needs are and how to plan your road network.

Remember: your roads, once built, aren’t easy to move, so be sure to discuss your plans with an experienced road builder and logging contractor before moving ahead.

Once you’ve located your road system on the map, the next step is to layout the roads on the ground. The field location is based on control points, such as:

  • stream crossings
  • unstable slopes
  • stream locations
  • important timber stands
  • landing locations and junctions

Forest roads can usually be surveyed using basic hand tools:

  • compass
  • clinometer
  • survey chain
  • calculator (conversion of slope distance)
  • flagging tape

Steepness of the road, or gradient, is usually the main concern, and should generally be limited to about 15% (20% maximum) for long, favourable slopes and 8% for long, adverse slopes.

The terms favourable and adverse relate to the conditions facing a loaded logging truck; a grade is favourable when the loaded truck is going downhill, and adverse when the loaded truck is going uphill.

For short stretches, favourable grades can be increased to up to 25%, and adverse grades to 12%. Road grades over 7% are vulnerable to water erosion of the road surface.

To avoid the requirement for constant maintenance and repair, coarse angular rock as ballast or surfacing material should be used. This type of material will also help logging vehicles to navigate steep road sections.

How Much Can You Do?

Road building usually follows a schedule based on which areas are slated for harvesting or special treatments first. The construction requirements will vary with the site conditions, and are determine by factors such as:

  • drainage
  • grade
  • slope
  • obstacles
  • stream beds
  • stream crossing

Before construction gets underway, you’ll have to decide whether to do-it-yourself or hire a contractor.

In many cases, you won’t have access to the equipment needed for road construction. If the job is large or complicated you’ll likely want to hire a competent forest road contractor. However, in other instances, competent landowners can construct light-duty roads using a dozer, or a small excavator, and other earth moving equipment.

Skid trails can be considered an extension of the road network and should be laid out and constructed with appropriate care, depending on the projected level of use. Logging plans should balance skidding distance with road construction costs to ensure the most efficient logging pattern.

What Equipment Should You Use?

Whether you’re planning to do-it-yourself or hire a contractor, you’ll need to consider the appropriate equipment for the job. Bulldozers, excavators and front-end loaders are common choices; each has advantages for particular situations.

Most forest roads are built with excavators, which are multi purpose machines that can perform numerous different tasks in your woodland, including stump pulling and harvesting (hoe chucking).

Excavators perform well, if the road construction does not require horizontal movement of excavated material, though this limitation can be overcome by using a truck for end-hauling. The hoe is well-suited to soft, wet conditions, or situations requiring the breaking of small amounts of isolated or loose rock.

Bulldozers have their application if road material needs to be moved horizontally over a short distance. The size of the bulldozer required for the job will vary with the total earthmoving requirement as well as the type of soil. These machines come with a variety of front-end blades and rear-mounting attachments like logging winches, rippers and stump-splitters, which make them versatile for many woodland activities.

Front-end loaders can be fitted with a bucket for loading gravel onto trucks or for transporting material for short distances. For minor road building in favourable conditions, a farm tractor with a bucket and a blade will suffice. Progress, however, may be very slow.

Like most of your management decisions, the choice of equipment for road construction should balance efficiency with operating cost.

As always, thanks to A Non-forester’s Guide to Small-scale forestry in British Columbia for the information excerpted above. Please stay tuned for more on road planning and construction in our next Standing Tending 101 post.

In the mean time, you can access the complete resource online here.

Another great resource is the PFLA BMP handbook.