Forestry Friday … Winter Logging

logging, winter logging, forestry, loggers

It isn’t very white in our woods right now.

We’re into our Winter logging season now.  In California, logging in the Winter period is much more restrictive than during Summer.  We are limited to operating only in “dry rainless periods” or “hard frozen conditions.”  Right now we have both.  This prevents muddy runoff and other resource damage.

frozen creek, forestry, logging

What do the trout do when the creek freezes?

Our rainfall and snowfall have been almost non-existent so far this Winter, but it has been very cold.  When the rest of the country went through the big cold snap, we did too.

logging, loader, heel boom, log truck, logger, timber harvesting, forestry

Tommy is loading out a truck. It sure doesn’t look like Winter.

The coldest day was on a Monday.  I was at the mill expecting log trucks to be pouring in, since we had such hard frozen conditions.  No trucks arrived with logs.  In fact, all trucks that went out that morning came back empty.  I found out later that none of the loggers could start any of their equipment.

log truck, loader, logging, logger, forestry, timber harvesting

Backing into the landing for a load of logs.

I thought their batteries might have died due to the extreme cold, but I was wrong.  Later, I  talked to Jim, one of the siderods, about what happened.  It turns out that we have a new environmentally friendly formulation of diesel fuel.  This new diesel freezes at 10 F/ -12 C, but the loggers were prepared for this.  They put an additive into the fuel, which lowered the freezing temperature to 1 F/ -17 C.  The problem came about when all of the logging jobs were into negative temperatures.  It dropped to -14 F/ -26 C on this harvesting job.  The coldest that I heard of locally was -34 F/ -37 C in the town of Tennet.  It literally stopped all of the loggers in their tracks.

skid cat, skidder, logging, logger

Skidding in a turn.

The loggers, being the problem solvers that they are, came up with a workaround.  They built warming fires under underneath the fuel tanks of the equipment.  It heated the fuel enough to thaw it and they were able to start their machines.  It sounded a little dicey to me, but it did the job.  On Tuesday they were all back up and running.

logging, log truck, log loader, timber harvesting, logging, logger, forestry

Unloading the dolly.  The smoke is from their warming fire.

Kinta was filling in for Blitz as the official truck dog.  Blitz was on holiday.

Kinta, golden retriever, snow

“Kinta you’re not the photo editor!”

Kinta, golden retriever

Don’t be deceived by this angelic face. This puppy’s a wild little rascal.

58 thoughts on “Forestry Friday … Winter Logging

    • Thank you Joy! When I saw the creek so frozen I had to take a picture. As for Kinta, if you think he’s cute in the picture, then you should meet him in person. That much cuteness in one creature should be against the law!


  1. This is all so interesting. Don’t the loggers need to be really, really careful with those fires in the forest?

    I just keep learning something every time I read one of your posts. Kinta is a beauty but reckon you are right about being a bit of terror. Still in puppyhood and can be a bit of work or a lot depending… 🙂


    • They do need to be careful with the warming fires, but they have big equipment to make big firelines. Normally, this time of year we have snow all around. Not this year.

      Kinta is an awesome puppy. He is so sweet that I put him on my pancakes for breakfast! 😉


  2. Tim, how long does it take for a cleared field to have trees back the same size as the one that have been taken down?
    Have you noticed how wildlife deals with a patch that is about the be cleared or has been cleared? Do the squirrels and birds just move ‘house’?
    Have you written about this, or will you do that in 2014? I’m looking forward to read about this.


    • Thank you for your questions, Paula. The answers tend to be quite complicated and often specific to each site’s unique characteristics, but most general principles apply. Harvesting takes many forms from selective logging, salvage logging to clearcutting, just to name a few. Since you’re asking about the effects of clearing trees in the forest on wildlife, let me start there.
      We use the term clearcut for clearing an area of forest larger than 2 ½ acres. In California a clearcut is 20 acres or less. How quickly a forest grows to a maturity depends on how fertile the site is. Typically, managed forests in our area will grow from seedling to maturity in 50 to 80 years. Other regions may be faster or take longer. Forests go through many life stages as trees mature. Wildlife will move in and out of a harvest area while we work in it. Harvesting is a slow process and animals often want to be far from the equipment when it’s operating, but some animals will come in when the crews go home at night. For example, deer feed on the foliage from the tree tops that couldn’t be reached before. Birds of prey often hunt in active logging areas. After an area is clearcut, the forest habitat within that specific area is changed from a mature forest habitat to a young forest habitat. Before harvest it contained more squirrels and woodpeckers. After harvest it attracts more deer, quail and turkeys. As the forest grows, the wildlife that uses it changes over time. Songbirds often prefer sapling sized trees for nesting and so on. The newly harvested areas are always surrounded by more mature forests. It is important to note, stream zones are never cleared of trees. A forest with a variety of habitats enhances the biodiversity of its wildlife. I blogged about some of the wildlife habitat protection practices here, and
      With large wildfires we see massive habitat change in the blink of an eye. This type of event kills wildlife in great numbers and degrades water quality. Yet wildlife populations and water quality recover over time. Healthy forestry practices are designed to minimize impacts. They may interrupt wildlife routines temporarily, but in a way that does not harm the wildlife populations or diminish water quality.
      Many people think of our forests like they think of a favorite building or monument. It is a beautiful place to visit that is always the way they remember it without change. By its very nature a forest isn’t static like a monument but is dynamic and ever changing.
      Paula, I really appreciate your questions. I could talk about it for hours. I will be blogging more about forestry and harvesting practices and issues. I know many people have concerns about how forestry is practiced and I am happy to be able to share what I do and what I know.


  3. I looooove that angelic face. Too cute. I also don’t know about “warming fires under fuel tanks.” Sounds like crazy talk to me. Hey! What do you think of the harvesting of the burn wood in Yosemite? I understand that some are opposed? Maybe you can do a blog post on the pros and cons. I sure would love to hear more about it from one who is in that or related line of work — you. Hope you had a merry Christmas. All the best for the new year!


    • Hi Kay. The dead trees do need to be harvested. The question of harvesting on the burned over lands in a way the doesn’t further damage the land is easily done by following the forestry rules that are already inplace. Letting these trees rot on the stump is the height of irresponsibliity. Those trees on Forest Service land belong to every person in the United State. When they are left to rot, it is like taking taxpayer money and setting it on fire. It is goverment waste at the highest level. Sorry, this is a hot button to me. I’ve seen it happen too often. I’ll say again, protecting the land is not a problem. The damage was done during the fire. When the Forest Service salvages those dead trees they collect moneys call KV funds that go to pay for replanting and rehabilition. When they don’t log, they don’t collect the funds. So they either pay for planting with tax payer money or they just don’t replant. Most often it is the latter. Private land owners are already logging their trees and replanting will start next Spring. Even the City of San Francisco is harvesting the dead trees at Hetch Hetchy. They know that logging and replanting is the quickest way to return the forest and protect the watershed. Not replanting will create a mixture of trees and brushfield and take a lot longer to develope into mature forests. You are right I should do a post on it. Now you got me all worked up!

      Let’s talk about the puppy instead. He is so cute it hurts and he is so sweet I could sprinkle him on top of my donuts!

      I really do appreciate your question Kay and I will take up your topic for a post. It is a very timely subject, especially here in California. I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and have a bountiful new year.


      • I’m glad I got you worked up! I help the guys at Mid-Pen Open Spaces (MROSD) with rehabilitation efforts on a volunteer basis and I know they do controlled burns for precisely all the reasons you give and then we go in and plant natives (trees and flowers). I just couldn’t understand the Yosemite quandary. You have a fantastic New Year with your too cute one, aka puppy! I have an old guy that I rescued from the pound about 8-years ago. He is an imp too but those big brown eyes get me every time and I forgive him his foolishness and for making a fool out of me time and time again!


  4. It’s funny how I seem to think that with such cold temperatures, there always has to be snow. Many of the photos look like spring to me. It’s so interesting to read about your work, also the things you’ve explained in the comments. I’m wondering, have there been any changes or different trends over the years, in how to best take care of forests? There is always the balance between nature and profit, so to speak. I remember as a child (in Sweden, 1970’s) seeing forest areas that were completely naked after the timber was taken. Like very ugly wounds. I think that these days, one tries to cut down in a more selective way, for a healthier regeneration. Having said this, I have to add I’m not an expert here and what I say might just as well be wishful thinking (?). Well, perhaps an issue for another post…
    Best wishes to you all for 2014!


  5. Fires under the fuel – very scary! But I’m sure they do know what they’re doing. I didn’t know it got so cold there – wow! Thanks for teaching us about logging – I’m all ears!


    • It does sound worse than it really is because diesel isn’t flammable like gasoline. Plus they starting out with frozen fuel. As long as they don’t over heat the fuel it won’t catch fire. However, if they forget with a big fire under it….well that’s not so good. 😉


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