FCCI Webinar #1: Forest Operations in a Changing Climate

Logo for FCCI and FSG webinar series

The first in the FCCI-FSG series was held October 7, 2020 with panelists Keith Kanoti, University Forests Manager,
and Amanda Mahaffey, Northeast Region Director, Forest Stewards Guild.
Attendees eligible for SAF Category 1 CFE.

The following links are available:

Webinar Recording

Keith Kanoti presentation slides

K.Kanoti Harvest Plan at PEF

Virtual Field Tour: Safe Wood v. Risky Wood (30 min video) in which Keith discusses harvest operations on two areas of Penobscot Experimental Forest.

Webinar Q&A (Questions submitted from webinar audience, responses by Keith Kanoti)

You mentioned diversifying the site, but it looks like you are developing a single-aged, pine stand.  Thoughts?

  • Our goal for that particular stand is to grow pine, we don’t have buy-in monocultures on every acre of our land base.
  • I took out all the fir from that stand, but I’ve got plenty of fir next door on another five acres, in different standard conditions.
  • Because of our management goals, we try pretty hard to grow pine in our stands. We’ve got a lot of other diversity spread around the land-base. We don’t try and cram it all on every acre.

Could you speak to the typical role of the landowner?  How much direction would you expect a landowner to give and how much is up to the discretion of the loggers?

  • Many successful harvests happen without foresters, but I would recommend using one.
  • The key for the landowner is to determine their objectives for the harvest. And not be afraid to communicate those to the forester, who would be responsible for making sure the logger carried out the plans properly.
  • If you’re not using a forester, you need to make sure communications and expectations with the logger are clear and agreed upon.
  • The landowner has to keep in mind that it is their land not the loggers land. At the end of the day, the owner has the final say on what they want for their property but they’re also responsible for what happens on their property. If there’s an environmental violation. It goes back to the landowner.

Do you have complete control over who your logging contractor is and the equipment mix, or are you required to award the job to the highest bidder?

  • In most cases, yes we do.
  • The particular property I was on with that harvest (see the Safe v. Risky Wood video) is actually privately owned by the University of Maine foundation. That’s a private landowner. So we have control over that.
  • I do have some limitations with the university that I have to abide by. What we do not do is send stuff straight out for bid. I may show an operation to a bunch of different loggers, but not necessarily bid it out. So I have quite a bit of control over that. Unfortunately, not everybody does.

From your experience are mill quoted or delivery restrictions a barrier to operation flexibility? If so, what changes could help?

  • They can be–We always have to be able to sell what the mill is buying.
  • Having some diversity in what you have planned–Not only site wise, but species wise is always a good thing because you may run up against a quota for x that if you can jump over here and harvest y for a little bit.
  • Sometimes what is cut needs to sit around for a while before you can send it to the mill. That potentially can be a barrier. But having that sort of diverse portfolio planned out in advance, if you have a little bit of the operational ability to deal with that, is helpful.

 I have found there is a trade off between a slower lower production cable skidding operation, and a faster high production mechanized operation during inconsistent winter conditions. Why did you pick the cable operator?

  • In our particular situation, we had a harvest that we needed to use a cable operator on for a research unit. So in those cases, we’re often trying to implement forest research.
  • The prescriptions are often really hard to implement and we have give them some decent wood to get them to do it. So nice pine shelter wood would work pretty well to make a compromise.
  • In addition, we have a good relationship with this logger. We knew he would be able to do what we wanted to for that first stage, find shelter wanted to, wanted is some soil scarification. Don’t get a lot of that in the winter, but you get some more with the cable operator. So that was another consideration. 
  • What I was worried about was on the side where we were releasing regeneration. But with a careful logger, one who knows what they’re doing and is willing to take care and take time and you can afford to take your time when you’re cutting big bind with the cables, get we are able to release the regeneration just fine. 
  • There’s always a trade off. So there’s also a trade-off of bmp wise with a cable skitter versus mechanized system that can get in, get out.  There are opportunities and limitations that come with each system.

I assume climate change is impacting fish spawning habits and timing. Do stream protections have to be updated at all to protect fish? I wonder if the critical time to prevent silt runoff is changing or other things like that?

  • I am not a fisheries biologist, but I have worked on such issues a lot over the years.
  • In terms of sediment, there’s never a good time to put sediment into brook. That shouldn’t happen at all. It leaves off things like the embeddedness of the spawning gravel, which are really hard for a stream to heal over time. Plus it’s a horrible public perception issue.
  • Maine has fairly good riparian protection measures. Some folks may debate that, but I think our riparian protection measures are fairly good. What I do think we need to pay a lot of attention to is our stream crossings, particularly permanent stream crossings. 
  • Making sure that fish habitat is protected was a particular concern for our permanent road infrastructure for wood extraction. 

How did you handle the economics of this harvest, considering the needs for work by the logger that didn’t directly lead to sellable wood? (brush,  BMP, distribution and management)

  • We negotiated a price that takes that all into account. And they don’t teach you negotiation skills and how all that works in forestry school!
  • The logger and I walked the site. The hardwood market at the time of the harvest was still pretty good and the pine log market was good. We reached an agreement and we were upfront about what we’re going to need to do to as we looked at the site. 
  • I think where everybody made money on this and as much as anybody can on a timber harvest, everyone was happy at the end. 
  • Without going into specifics, our contracts are written so that we can renegotiate things as time goes on. Particularly if wood prices change. If we need to, we renegotiate to make it fair for everybody.

Climate change suggests that current species distribution will change.  You have presented solid information on how to deal in a practical, present sense, on how to deal with changing weather and climate conditions.  Are you considering longer-term adaptations, such as directing changes in species on your sites?

  • We try to maintain a diversity of species out there. We do everything we can to try and ensure that our regeneration is going to be successful. Because [in my thinking] those early, young trees are in the susceptible phase to climate changes.
  • Maintaining a diverse portfolio of species out there provides some hedge against climate change, against markets, and against those quotas and those sorts of things. 

Video Key Points

Climate Change Considerations

  1. Use a Landscape Approach
  2. Make the most of Winter Conditions
  3. Focus Silvicultural Outcomes on Regeneration
  4. Know Costs and Benefits of Drought
  5. Maintain Species and Structural Diversity
  6. Communication with your Team is Key

Best Management Practices

  1. Harvest in Winter Conditions
  2. Place Slash in Trail
  3. Freeze Trail Purposefully
  4. Maintain BMPs Throughout Harvest
  5. Protect Streamside Buffer
  6. Use Skidder Bridges
  7. Locate Ideal Crossing

Final Thoughts—

  • I really think that being creative and trying to design flexibility into your systems and processes is important. You know, the climate has been changing and weather has always been problematic. And it’s going to continue to be. So really understanding how you can be flexible, how you can find places that are safe to be.
  • Make places that are risky safer by paying attention to your BMPs, paying attention to your road systems and access is important.
  • Go into it with an understanding that there are economic limitations to this stuff. The logger needs to make money, the land owner needs to make money. The foresters involved are often mediating those things. Having an appreciation of everybody’s role in this process.
  • Timely and clear communications between all parties is key.