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Overcoming the challenges of harvesting on steep terrain

Published: 06/12/2018
Harvesting operations on steep terrain require extensive planning, robust machinery and experienced operators. The challenge for harvesting companies has always been multifaceted; finding contractors with machinery and personnel suitable for steep ground, maximising returns for landowners and perhaps most importantly, ensuring that work is carried out in a safe, professional and environmentally sensitive manner.

EGGER Forestry have been actively engaged in harvesting operations on steep terrain since our inception in 1993, however the frequency of them has increased significantly. Increased standing timber prices coupled with improved capabilities and efficiencies in modern day harvesting machinery have meant that working on the most difficult terrain is both financially viable and physically possible.

Kidland Forest in Northumberland National Park, has been an important source of timber for EGGER and our strategic sawmill partners for the past 15 years however the forest is distinguished by its steep slopes and challenging terrain. Over these years, we have gained valuable knowledge and experience associated with working on this type of terrain and have been able to harness this specialism on operations in other parts of the companies operating region.

In 2018, we have worked on two separate harvesting operations in Kidland Forest. Both have varied with regards to the harvesting techniques and machinery deployed due to several considered factors including, ground conditions, terrain, tree size and existing infrastructure. On the most challenging terrain we have used a specialist cable-based system called a skyline to pull the trees to the top of the hill where the harvester can process them and the forwarder can then extract the processed timber to the roadside. This type of operation is costly, but in cases such as this, absolutely necessary.