A survey of animal-powered logging in Alabama
In a state with a very large, highly mechanized timber harvesting industry, animal-powered logging still occupies a niche in Alabama as a small-scale harvesting alternative. This article summarizes the results from a study that examined the extent of animal logging in Alabama. We investigated this topic by asking who is logging with animals, where are they working, what equipment are they using, and what do they see as the future of animal-powered logging in Alabama. To answer these questions, we conducted a telephone survey of 33 owner-operators of horse and/or mule logging operations and on-site semi-structured interviews with a subsample of survey participants. Horse and mule loggers in Alabama work mostly on nonindustrial privately owned forests. The average animal logging operation consists of three people, two animals, and a side-loading truck. Most animal loggers find their niche in Alabamaâ€™s logging industry by working on small tracts, tracts with low timber volumes, and harvests that use selective thinnings. With 90% of the animal loggers in Alabama over age 40, and with 27 loggers having retired in the past 5 yr, the number of animal loggers in Alabama is expected to decline, or, at best, hold steady, over the next 10 to 20 yr. As the average area of a nonindustrial privately owned forested tract in the Southeast continues to decrease, particularly along the urban fringe, the demand for small-scale harvesting systems, including systems using animals and farm tractor-sized implements to skid logs, may increase.