From a logging point of view, even after the shuttle recovery is over, I would encourage you to continue walking tracts before beginning your operations. In fact, the BMP program has always recommended to loggers that they walk the tract as part of the planning process before starting up operations on a tract.
If you are working on a private tract, ask the landowner or the landowner’s forester to be a part of the walk through, or if you are on an industry tract ask the company forester to come along. By walking a tract, you can find a wealth of information that can help you conduct an efficient and well-organized harvest operation. You can identify the best location to cross a creek, locate a skid trail or road, or place a loading deck. You can also get a feel for problem areas such as steep slopes or wet areas that may not be easily planned for from a map or aerial photo. Locating boundary lines is another important reason to walk a tract before starting. If it is a private tract, the landowner may identify special areas that may require a little more care and attention when harvesting. By paying attention to those sorts of things, you can certainly save yourself some headaches down the road. There is a lot of useful information that can be gained by a simple walk around a tract before starting an operation, especially if you include the landowner. That information may, in the end, save you some grief, it will save you some time and possibly even save you some money.
The forestry community has already done a fabulous job in assisting with the Columbia space shuttle recovery and your efforts are greatly appreciated by many. I would urge you all to continue with your gracious assistance by conducting a walk through on your tracts before starting up operations. Something you find may be the key to unraveling the mystery about what caused this terrible tragedy. While you are out there scanning the woods for shuttle material, take a few more minutes to be observant about the tract itself. These tract inspections, for obvious reasons, are something you definitely need to do right now, and something you should consider doing from now on. And if you are not anywhere near the shuttle recovery site, give this walk through a try and see if it helps and then let me know how it turns out.
* This article was published in the April 2003 issue of the Texas Logger