Saturday, May 1, 2004


By: Shane Harrington, BMP Forester (Ret.), Texas Forest Service

Q:   I have been in the logging business for several years now and I pride myself in the fact that I try my best to follow BMP guidelines in all situations. Lately it seems that every time I set up on a tract it begins to rain and it stays wet for several days and possibly weeks. How can I deal with all of this wet weather?

A:   Are any of you logging out of a canoe yet? There has been a lot of rain here in East Texas the past couple of months. I am sure that many of you are feeling the effects of all the recent wet weather. There are three questions that are commonly asked about wet weather logging: can I log during wet conditions, what, if any, impacts can logging have when it’s too wet, and what can I do when it’s too wet to log?

Wet weather logging can have negative impacts if done improperly
Can you log during wet conditions? The answer to that question is yes but caution is needed and should be used during wet weather logging operations. There are several things that you need to pay close attention to if you are going to conduct a wet weather logging operation. Rutting is the biggest concern, it should be kept to a minimum and should not exceed 6 inches in depth for more than 50 feet in length. High flotation or dual tires may be used on skidders to help reduce rutting and soil compaction. You can also lay timber down in your skid rows to create a pole road, which will help minimize rutting. As always, attention should also be given to stream crossings. These structures should be properly installed and stabilized to help reduce the chance of it washing out during a rain event. Pages 47 – 51 of the BMP bluebook give recommendations on how to properly install stream crossings. Haul roads and skid trails are other areas that need to be examined. Maintaining these systems will help ensure that they do not become impassable either through washing or excessive rutting. Recommended specifications for properly maintaining your haul roads can be found on pages 30 – 33 of the BMP bluebook.

What, if any, impacts can logging have when it’s too wet? The biggest area of concern here would be rutting. As stated in the previous paragraph rutting should be kept to a minimum. Rutting is a primary concern because it can potentially change the hydrology and drainage of the land, cause heavy or excessive erosion through the channeling of water, and can cause soil compaction. Soil compaction will negatively impact site productivity reducing the landowner’s return on investment through decreased growing potential and increased site preparation costs. Another thing to be conscious of when logging on wet tracts is the amount of mud that you are depositing on the highways and county roads. Mud on the roadway may pose a danger to motorists in numerous ways. Motorists who suddenly approach mud in the roadway may try to avoid the mud, which could cause an accident. During a rain event mud can cause the roadway to become slick, whichcould result in a motorist losing traction and possibly causing an accident. To help reduce the amount of mud being deposited on the roadway some type of approach such as gravel should be put down to help clean off the tires before entering the roadway.

What can I do when it is too wet to log? This time can be used to start planning for future jobs and to take a look at past logging jobs that you have conducted. Before moving onto a tract, plan carefully by using a soil survey map, topographical map, and landowner advice to determine how rain events will affect your operation, A soil survey map is useful because it will tell you what type of soil you will be working on and what the limitations are of that particular soil type. You should try to avoid bottomland sites and sites with heavy clays until the summer months when it is traditionally dryer. Plan on operating on sandy soils during the wetter months. Use topographical maps to calculate the drainage areas for the site to ensure that you install stream crossings that are adequate enough to handle the water flow from an unexpected rain event. The landowner can tell you about areas of his land that may be potential problem sections that you should either avoid or use caution while operating in these areas. You can also use this time to go back and look at past tracts that you have harvested. Take a look at the BMPs that you implemented and see if they were constructed properly and functioning. This will let you know if you are doing good job at installing your BMPs or if you need to improve. Lastly use this time to inspect all of your equipment and get them serviced if needed.

As you can see wet weather logging can be achieved as long as you use appropriate caution and plan ahead. Keep in mind though that there are times that it is just too wet to log and this time is better used planning for future logging jobs, fishing, or hunting. Planning is very important when it comes to conducting harvest operations and installing BMPs. If you have any questions or comments regarding BMPs please feel free to call me at (936) 639-8180.

* This article was published in the May 2004 issue of the Texas Logger

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