Reduced impact logging


Lifting one end of the log off the ground
reduces damage to the soil surface. Photo:

Reduced impact logging can be defined as 'the intensively planned and carefully controlled implementation of timber harvesting operations to minimise the environmental impact on forest stands and soils'. It involves a number of practical measures, such as:

  1. a pre-harvest inventory and the mapping of individual crop trees;
  2. the pre-harvesting planning of roads, skid trails and landings to minimise soil disturbance and to protect streams and waterways with appropriate crossings;
  3. pre-harvest vine-cutting in areas where heavy vines connect tree crowns;
  4. the construction of roads, landings and skid trails following environmentally friendly design guidelines;
  5. the use of appropriate felling and bucking techniques including directional felling, cutting stumps low to the ground to avoid waste, and the optimal crosscutting of tree stems into logs in a way that maximises the recovery of useful wood;
  6. the winching of logs to planned skid trails and ensuring that skidding machines remain on the trails at all times;
  7. where feasible, using yarding systems that protect soils and residual vegetation by suspending logs above the ground or by otherwise minimising soil disturbance; and
  8. conducting a post-harvest assessment in order to provide feedback to the resource manager and logging crews and to evaluate the degree to which the RIL guidelines were successfully applied.

Apart from the environmental benefits, RIL has been shown to reduce the percentage of 'lost' logs (those trees that are felled in the forest but not extracted because they aren't seen by tractor operators), thereby reducing timber wastage.

ITTO promotes RIL in a number of ways. Through its project program it provides training in RIL procedures; for example, one project in the Brazilian Amazon provided training in better logging to 138 operators and assisted several logging companies to achieve the certification of their operations. A new phase of this project commenced in 2003, and similar projects are under way in Indonesia, Guyana and Cambodia.

For a detailed account of ITTO's action agenda, please refer to the ITTO Action Plan 2008-2011, or click on Resources and Project portfolio to see more about ITTO's work on reduced impact logging.