Dennis Dykstra, formerly Director of Research for the
Center for International Forestry Research, is an international
forestry consultant for Blue Ox Forestry, Portland, OR.
all comes down to the bottom line. Often, the only way
to protect forest resources in cash-strapped developing
countries is to find ways of using them that are both
sustainable and profitable. Reduced-impact logging seems
to fit the bill.
logging not only does less environmental damage than
conventional logging, but can also be more efficient
and cost-effective, according to some studies. Tom Holmes,
Forest Service economist, working with the Tropical
Forest Foundation and its Brazilian subsidiary,
Fundaçao Floresta Tropical, compared costs and
revenues from a typical reduced-impact logging system
to a typical large-scale conventional logging system
in the eastern part of the Amazon basin in the Brazilian
state of Pará.
findings are remarkable. Under reduced-impact logging,
training investments produced more efficient use of
machinery and timber. The overall cost per cubic meter
of wood produced was 12 percent less for reduced-impact
logging than for conventional logging.
study results do not necessarily apply to other timbersheds
in the Amazon basin, let alone elsewhere. Moreover,
reduced-impact logging incurs costs that conventional
logging does not, such as preharvest mapping, planning,
and vine cutting. Some studies have found that the costs
can outweigh the savings from using reduced-impact logging.
are naturally risk averse, and many loggers are loathe
to adopt techniques that might reduce their profits.
Moreover, preconceived notions that reduced-impact logging
is less profitable might prevent its adoption by companies
that would otherwise benefit.
trick is to let individual loggers actually see in advance
how reduced-impact logging would affect their bottom
lines. In 2001, a team of international cooperators
began developing software to do just that. The primary
sponsor is the USDA Forest Service, with support from
for International Forestry Research; the University
of Florida; and Blue
Ox Forestry, an international forestry consulting
practice based in Portland, OR.
software, named Reduced-Impact Logging Simulator (RILSIM),
was "beta tested" in May 2002, with distribution
planned for late 2002. Available at no cost if downloaded
over the Internet and for a modest fee on CD-ROM, it
can operate on computers with little memory and limited
disk capacity. It is easy to install and use. Users
simply complete a series of "data forms" based
on local site conditions, wages, equipment costs, and
other factors. The analysis then shows the profitability
of using reduced-impact logging.
many tropical forests, conventional logging depletes
timber stocks and inflicts severe ecological damage,
costs that future generations must bear. Reduced-impact
logging can be part of the solution, but only if private
producers see its profitability. Now, the USDA Forest
Service and its partners are harnessing the power of
information to show the potential payoffs.
is Reduced-Impact Logging?
in the tropics typically remove only the most
valuable trees, such as mahogany. Other trees
are often killed or damaged in the process. Reduced-impact
logging is designed to minimize the disturbances
associated with selective timber harvest. It is
not a fixed prescription; it adapts the best possible
harvest techniques to local site and market conditions.
logging typically includes extensive pre-harvest
planning. Trees are inventoried and mapped for
efficient, cost-effective harvest. Roads, skid
trails, and log landings are planned to minimize
the number needed. Vines are cut to protect adjacent
trees. Trees are felled in the direction least
likely to damage adjacent trees and other forest
resources. Stumps are cut low to the ground to
utilize every inch of wood. Construction techniques
for roads, skid trails, and landings are designed
to minimize soil disturbance. Heavy machinery
is kept to skid trails, so logs are winched. Slash
is reduced to prevent fire hazards from developing.
are palpable. Reduced-impact logging systems typically
produce less damage to residual forests, fewer
roads and skid trails, less erosion, better water
quality, fewer fire hazards, and faster forest