ODNR is seeing the forest for the trees

SALEM, Ohio — With new technology, comes new regulations and equipment for Ohio’s logging industry.



Low-impact logging technology has made its way into Ohio and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources wants it to become the way of the future for Ohio woodland owners.



The Ohio Forestry Initiative, announced by the ODNR earlier this year at the Ohio Forestry Association’s annual meeting, encourages professional forest management, low-impact technology and continued growth in Ohio’s forested acres.



“State government is raising the bar, in terms of forest management practices, for ourselves and — on a voluntary basis — for those who own or manage forest resources on privately owned property,” said Sam Speck, ODNR director.



Master Loggers will play a large role in the project. ODNR will only use Master Loggers for logging and clearing projects affecting five or more acres of department-owned lands in state forests and state wildlife areas.



There are about 150 Master Loggers in Ohio, but out-of-state loggers may be hired if there is a reciprocal agreement between Ohio and that state.



ODNR will also promote public awareness of the Master Logger program and provide special training to help logging companies maintain proficiency standards for their employees.



Any private woodland owner who applies for special tax status, such as CAUV, is currently required to have a property management plan in place. ODNR’s foresters visit the property, and if landowners have no plan or an existing plan needs updated, the foresters will work with the property owners to create a management plan. ODNR has also proposed that applicants for special tax status be required to hire Master Loggers, but plans for this have not been finalized.



Many Master Loggers will also be introduced to two new pieces of equipment that allow for low-impact logging. The feller buncher cuts the trees and the forwarder carries the trees out. These do the job of the traditional skidder.



The technology originated in the Scandinavian region, and it is still relatively new to the United States, said John Dorka, ODNR’s deputy chief of resource management.



“This new (feller buncher) resembles a backhoe on tracks. It has an arm attached to it like a space shuttle, only much bigger and heavier,” said Andy Ware, ODNR media relations specialist. “The arm grabs onto the tree you want and cuts it off at the base. It gently lays down the tree and then it’s cut into firewood.”



Ware said the new machines reduce scaring on surrounding trees and don’t rut the forest floor like a skidder.



While the new devices may save trees, it hurts the pocket book. Buying the two pieces of equipment will run you about $750,000.



“The new equipment is very expensive. (ODNR is) working with the Ohio EPA on a cooperative program to offer low-interest loans to assist private operators with the purchase of low-impact logging equipment,” said Dorka.



ODNR will designate about 20 percent of timber harvests in state forests to be completed only by loggers using low-impact equipment, said Dorka.



Although Jim Doll, president of Doll Lumber in Southington, Ohio, agrees the low-impact equipment works wonders, he says the economics of buying it isn’t feasible.



“I’m glad the state is pushing it and trying to help with it, and if they offer low-interest monies for it, I’ll definitely check into it. But when the skidder I have now cost me $120,000, to spend the extra $600,000 I would really need some big incentives,” said Doll.



Doll says the equipment is popular where there has been strip mining and clear cutting, because loggers are guaranteed a high volume of lumber. His company focuses mainly on selective harvesting where the new equipment may be too large for the job.



But, he says, the new equipment would allow him to work in inclement weather.



“We try to reduce the amount of impact we have on a forest. We try to wait until the ground is dry, but there are sometimes when you can’t wait,” said Doll. “It would be nice to be able to work more days in a year.”



While there is little incentive to buy the new equipment now, he believes competitive logging companies will purchase the equipment in the future.



“It is working to the right end. We are trying to sustain our forests, and this new equipment will help us do that,” said Doll. “I would like nothing more than to buy the low-impact equipment, but the decision will be hard and the money hard to find.”



ODNR manages 19 state forests, and all of them have potential for logging. There are between 125,000-150,000 acres of state forests, and about 1,500 of those acres are logged each year, said Dorka.



As part of the initiative, ODNR is seeking legislation to combine the Current Agricultural Use Value and the Ohio Forest Tax Law to create a single program.



With CAUV, the land value depends upon capitalizing the expected net income from farming. This makes the taxation of farm real estate more fair and reasonable. The Ohio Forest Tax Law allows for a 50 percent reduction in property taxes if the owner agrees to create a forest management plan.



ODNR also hopes to add a clause to the legislation that would require low impact logging.

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