assessment of sustainability of our forests

Southern Forest Resource Assessment

led by the USDA Forest Service's Southern Region and Southern Research Station in collaboration with the USEPA, US Fish & Wildlife, TVA, and state forestry agencies of the Southern United States

Broad Category: Timber Markets and Forest Management

Question Manager: Bob Rummer

Question TIMBR-3: How might existing and new technologies influence forest operations and resultant conditions of forests?

  1. The evaluation of technologies should address: harvesting and processing technologies, and genetic engineering.
  2. Describe how technology changes influence productivity, management choices (including rotation length), and resulting forest conditions.
  3. What are the environmental implications of changes in harvest technologies?
  4. Address the accessibility of technologies to various forest ownership groups.


Forest operations are the tools which managers use to implement their prescriptions.  These tools are designed to achieve desired outcomes in a cost-effective manner while minimizing undesirable impacts.  Forest operations have evolved to meet the changing demands of southern forest management.  This Assessment Question will describe the current technologies applied to forestry and describe some of the historical technological developments.  The connections between technologies employed in the establishment, management, harvesting and processing of various forest products will be examined.  Specifically this will include site preparation, planting, vegetation control, intermediate stand manipulations, and regeneration harvests.  Additionally, basic information on the effect of new technologies on the environmental impacts of forest operations will be compiled.

Methods of analysis

Forest operations will be described by product streams (ie, SRWC, hardwood sawlog, OSB, in-woods chips).  Where alternative systems exist (shovel logging vs. skidder), the applications, advantages and disadvantages will be defined.  Most of this information will come from production and cost studies in the forest engineering literature.  The salient characteristics of each system will be summarized.

The prevalence of the various forest operations will be estimated from producer surveys (literature), overall production levels of various products (AQ IV.1), overall levels of various management practices (AQ IV.2), and workforce data (AQ III.5).  Since directly applicable data is not available, estimates will be extrapolated from several related variables.

The environmental impacts of forest operations will be described as general averages compiled from studies in the literature.  The development of technology to reduce impacts will be described.

Accessibility of technologies to various ownership groups may be affected by several factors.  Ownership groups suggests differences in tract size, differences in economic capability, differences in management goals, differential access to proprietary technology.  At one end of the scale, the small landowner who chooses to implement their own forest management may be financially constrained to particular types of forest operations.  At the other end, a large forest products company may aggressively implement state-of-the-art technology to intensively manage the forest.  The analysis of this issue will focus on landowner attitudes in the selection of forest operations and the effect of tract size on cost (there are some recent studies in the literature).

Data Sources:

APA Pulpwood Producer Survey

Scientific literature

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Manufacturers

FIA utilization data

State co-operative extension services


 The overall goal is to provide a picture of how forest management is implemented in the South and the evolutions of technology to improve the attainment of management objectives

1)  Descriptive matrix of forest operations: configurations, productivity, capitalization, labor, etc

2)  Estimates of prevalence of each type of operation. Resolution: physiographic region, maybe state

3)  Description of average impacts: soil disturbance, compaction, residual stand damage associated with each type of operation

4)  Discussion of the availability of various operations

Collaborators and Sources:

Links to other questions:  

Prevalence of operations related to product demand and management systems IV.1 and IV.2

Overall capacity of southern forest operations related to workforce and economic data III.5

Environmental impacts of forest operations related to II.4,  V.3

Unresolved Issues: 

Cited and Other Relevant Literature:



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 modified: 2-MAR-2000