Solutions for logging uphill
By Jean-Luc Bernier
Nov. 4, 2014 - Twenty-four per cent of the Timber Harvest Land Base volume in B.C. is on slopes greater than 35 per cent. How can it be harvested safely, economically and without environmental damage? FPInnovations’ research develops timely, cost effective solutions to save lives, jobs and money.
Harvesting on steep terrain in British Columbia has often been deferred in favour of less costly options. However, the need to harvest the timber profile will force greater attention on steep slopes all while experienced skilled workers are retiring from the workforce. The introduction of young, inexperienced workers onto difficult terrain will create risks, which will create greater need for safety innovations. It is no secret that recruitment of new workers may depend on a good safety record.
FPInnovations is focused on promoting mechanization as an alternative to manual falling. The aim is to get workers off the hillside and into equipment with protected cabs. The Stability Testing project is using tilt-table testing and modelling of forest machine configurations to develop a Machine Stability Rating system which should serve as due diligence and facilitate the use of ground-based harvesting on slopes in excess of steep slope regulations.
Winch-assisted technology can also extend mechanization on steep slopes. To take a closer look at available technologies, harvesting operations researcher Brian Boswell is responsible for investigating tethering systems used in Europe as part of the foreign technology project. FPInnovations has submitted a multi-year joint application to the Western Diversification Fund for $1.1 million in partnership with the BC Forest Safety Council specifically to develop a Machine Stability Rating System, a dashboard stability indicator, as well as to assist with the development of a tethering system for harvesting.
Initial results showed that traction aid winches have been used to tether wheeled harvesters and forwarders for a number of years on slopes between 35 and 50 per cent in central Europe. The primary application is with cut-to-length systems and the primary motivation behind these developments is to minimize soil disturbance, although improved safety is also a consideration. The incorporation of winches to the wheeled drive systems of European production machines appears to be well refined. In New Zealand, winches are incorporated to tracked drive systems similar to the tracked feller-bunchers currently operating in B.C. One such machine is currently operating in B.C. and has been studied by FPInnovations.
The industry in B.C. also recognizes that timber on steep ground is the next fibre reservoir, as timber on gentle terrain has been heavily consumed during the economic downturn and mountain pine beetle salvage. This new reality commended a greater effort to reduce steep slope harvesting costs. As such, FPInnovations is proposing to partner with industry, government, manufacturers, universities and international organizations to create an integrated multi-year research program. One that will see increased access to economically available timber from steep terrain by at least 3 million cubic metres per year, increased margins by 50 per cent on fibre from steep terrain and new technologies and innovative approaches for maximum safety and minimal environmental impact. Objectives are high but so are the stakes. The Steep Slope Initiative will be showcased during a special workshop open to FPInnovations members, their contractors and invited guests only.
For more information about FPInnovations Steep Slope Initiative, please contact Brian Boswell at