The impact of group selection silviculture on timber harvesting cost in the southern Appalachians

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Virginia Tech


National Forest timber management in the southern Appalachians is changing from traditional even-aged management and clearcutting to uneven-aged management and group selection silviculture. Group selection, with its small 1/2-to-2-acre patch cuts widely dispersed throughout a timber stand, has the potential to substantially increase timber harvesting costs over traditional clearcutting. This could exacerbate the below-cost timber sale issue. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of groups election silviculture on timber harvest productivity and cost in hardwood stands of the southern Appalachians. This was accomplished by collecting and analyzing field production and cost data from typical Appalachian loggers operating on group-selection timber sales. Three logging systems were chosen for the study: (1) cable yarder ,(skyline) system; (2) feller-buncher/cable skidder system; and (3) motor-manual chainsaw felling/cable skidding system. At least one full week of time-study production data was collected at each location. cost information was obtained from the cooperating loggers' records, as well as historic production and cost data from previous clearcut sales for comparison purposes. study results show that production was reduced and unit cost increased for all three logging systems when operating on group-selection timber sales as compared to clearcutting. unit cost per ton for the cable yarder system was $40.18, a 29 percent increase over their previous average clearcutting cost. The fellerbuncher/cable skidder system unit cost per ton was $14.79, a 19 percent increase over this system's average clearcutting cost. The chainsaw felling/cable skidder system cost of $16.15 per ton was 33 percent above their normal clearcutting cost. A large increase in delays and unproductive time as a result of specific group-selection timber sale characteristics appears to be the major cause of reduced logging productivity and increased costs.