The 2011 Texas wildfire season has left a wide swath of destruction in its wake—millions of acres of forest and rangeland have been charred, thousands of homes have been destroyed and several people died.
Destructive wildfires have left many forest landowners wondering what they should do with the burned timber on their property. Salvaging this timber quickly and starting over may be the only option for many landowners.
While there is a sense of urgency to harvest the damaged timber, it is important to remember the long term benefits of using Best Management Practices of conservation methods, which are designed to protect your soil and water resources - two important elements necessary to grow a healthy forest.
Here are some things to keep in mind during these operations:
- Seek assistance from professional foresters and certified Pro Loggers. Data collected by Texas A&M Forest Service shows that trained professionals are more likely to implement BMPs during forestry operations.
- Special care should be taken when operating in the Streamside Management Zone to minimize ground disturbance. These zones act as the final filter before any sediment or debris reaches the stream. Haul roads, skid trails and landings should be located outside of these zones. Stream crossings should be avoided or minimized. Trees and tops should not be felled across or pushed into streams.
- Every effort should be made to protect and leave trees in the SMZ that are not severely damaged. This is critical to keep from destroying the filtering and stream shading effects of these zones. A residual density of 50 square feet of basal area (average amount of an area occupied by tree stems) should be left where possible.
- Evaluate the regeneration potential of the SMZ. If artificial regeneration is necessary, site preparation and machine planting should be avoided within the zone.
- Follow BMP protocols for the rest of the tract and use common sense. Despite the necessity to facilitate a quick harvest, BMPs should be followed. Common sense will go a long way in keeping operators safe and preventing excessive damage to the site. Temporary erosion control may be utilized, but plans should be made to revisit the site as soon possible to shore up these measures.