Few harvesting decisions have a longer lasting impact than the design and construction of haul roads, skid trails, and landings (Figure 9-1). Haul roads usually are permanent roadways that provide access for trucks to specific points in the woodland for hauling logs or other management purposes. Skid trails generally are temporary, unimproved roadways that enable skidders, forwarders or horses to transport logs from the interior of the woodland to the landing. Landings are areas used for processing (such as sorting products, delimbing, cutting logs to shorter lengths, and debarking) and for loading timber products onto trucks.
The general goal is to minimize the cost and amount of infrastructure and environmental impacts (such as soil erosion) while still achieving your land management goals. While roads, skid trails, and landings are generally constructed by loggers, landowners should understand the basic processes and standards. When planning new infrastructure, locate it in areas that facilitate your long-term ownership goals and plans.
The layout of transportation infrastructure is influenced by property lines, topography, soil conditions, streams and wetlands, economic limits on skidding distances, and other features. Permits may be required for stream and wetland crossings, culvert installations, driveway access, and other road work.
Figure 9-1. Example of a plan for a system of haul roads, skid trails, and log landings.
The potential for soil erosion and stream siltation is especially pronounced in areas with steep slopes and erodible soils. To reduce soil erosion avoid building roads and skid trails that run directly uphill or downhill. Use water diversion systems that move water off the exposed surface or away from ditches into the vegetated forest floor. Because water diversion options may impede some recreational uses of roadways, discuss their design with your forester.
Revegetate roads, skid trails, ditches, and landings with grasses and forbs (any herb other than grass) to help prevent erosion. The seed mix and application rate will vary according to your climate and soil. Native seed mixes are recommended to reduce the chance of introducing harmful invasive species. The seed mixture can include food and cover plants that are beneficial to wildlife. Where possible, lightly disk and fertilize the bare roadbed before broadcast seeding.
To protect roads and skid trails after logging:
Skidding is the process of transporting logs from the stump after trees are felled to a landing where they can be further processed or loaded onto trucks. Logs are usually dragged by a skidder or horse or carried by a forwarder, thus creating skid trails. These trails usually are not graded and need only a minimum amount of clearing. Depending on your management objectives and forest conditions, material may be skidded over a fixed trail network or the logger could use a different skid route for each trip to help knock down undesirable trees and shrubs, thus helping to clear the site for regeneration. Frozen or dry soil conditions are recommended to avoid compacting soils. If soils are not frozen, it is generally advisable to minimize the area affected by skid trails to avoid compacting the soils across a broad area of the forest. Your forester may be able to recommend additional techniques to minimize compaction.
Landings are busy places during a harvesting operation, producing big impacts on a relatively small area. Carefully select landing locations to provide for efficient timber removal and minimize adverse environmental impacts. Proper construction and maintenance of a landing is similar to that for roads.
Locate landings close to concentrations of timber. Choose locations with a slight slope so that water will drain away. Avoid steep slopes and low, wet areas where trucks cannot maneuver. Locate landings below ridge crests to reduce the need for steep, hazardous roads. The haul road approaching the landing should have a low grade. Landing size and shape will be influenced by the timber length, loading method, type of hauling equipment, and processing to be performed at the landing.
Take special care when storing petroleum products and maintaining equipment in woodlands. Designate a specific place for draining vehicle lubricants so they can be collected and stored until being transported off-site for recycling, reuse, or disposal. Provide receptacles for solid wastes such as grease tubes and oil filters. Locate refueling areas away from water. A landing may be an excellent location for storing these products and maintaining equipment.
Cull logs and other debris may be a hazard to snowmobilers and other recreational users if left on the landing.