MICHIGAN— Hiawatha National Forest employees Martha Sjogren and Eric Raikko recently arranged a field demonstration for fellow Forest Service specialists that included a tour of four winter logging sites. The field demonstration provided first-hand insights into the effectiveness, impacts and challenges of logging operations.
Participants saw equipment in action and spoke with two operators who provided insights into working on Forest Service timber sales, as well as the challenges and benefits of implementing winter harvest. Attendees represented a wide range of Forest Service specialists who may be involved in logging related projects, including hydrologists, engineers, foresters, silviculturists, and specialists in recreation, heritage, GIS and wildlife.
“I’m really glad I chose to attend,” said participant Jenni Piggott, a civil engineering technician whose work includes preparing specifications for roadwork related to vegetation projects. According to Piggott, the highlight of the field trip was the opportunity to talk with logging operators.
Forested wetlands on the Hiawatha are often managed for a combination of timber and wildlife habitat. These wet areas are only accessible to loggers during the winter.
“In order to protect soil and water quality, prescriptions for vegetation treatments in areas with somewhat poorly drained soils include an operating requirement of 6 inches of frost or 12 inches of compacted snow (or a combination of the two),” said Sjogren, timber management assistant for the forest’s east zone. “This combination of frost, snow and the use of slash actually supports the logging equipment so that, for the most part, they are able to stay out of the muck and harvest the trees.”
Often referred to as the “Great Lakes National Forest,” the Hiawatha is adjacent to three Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan and Huron) and 40 percent of the forest’s land mass is classified as wetland. Wetland is a broad description, covering a range of habitat types from somewhat poorly drained soils to marshes and lakes. Some of these wetlands don’t grow trees, while much of the forested wetlands are managed for a combination of timber and wildlife habitat reasons.
“We thought it was important for the various specialists to see how a winter sale is managed,” said Raikko, timber contracting Forest Service representative. “Monitoring data shows that we have really good results in terms of revegetation, even when some soil disturbance was evident.”
Raikko noted one key exception occurs when the forest fails to keep ATVs or motorized vehicles off the site after sale is complete, which prevents the site from healing naturally and may lead to damage. The east zone works with the loggers to slash in temporary roads and major skid trails after the logging is completed because wetland soils usually won’t support vehicles during the other seasons of the year.