Legacy Log Forwarder: Shopping Cart in the Forest

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At a time when logging equipment is getting bigger and Vermont’s private forests are getting smaller, it’s increasingly challenging for family forest owners to carry out light-on-the-land forest practices related to tree harvesting. It’s our aim at Vermont Family Forests to help explore possibilities that help landowners engage in mutually beneficial relationship with their forests. In March, we put our new legacy log forwarder through its paces for the first time. It performed just as we hoped it would–like a light, nimble shopping cart that could lift and carry a 30-inch-diameter, 23-foot log with ease, rolling it out of the forest without disturbing forest soils or standing trees.

Take a look at how the process unfolded at the McEachen Family Forest in Bristol:

Family forest owner Ron McEachen had a few mature white pines ready for harvest. Vermont Family Forests had just the right customer for those logs–Nick Patch, master boatbuilder for the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) Longboats Program. Local woodsman Tom Kenyon jumped at the task of felling the trees and using VFF’s new forwarder to carry them out of the forest. Here, Tom uses the Game of Logging directional felling technique to drop the pine where he wanted it to go.
He backed the legacy log forwarder over a prepared log, then released the hydraulics, which lowered the trailer, and caused the rear tower to lean forward, creating slack in the cable. He used a peavey to poke a hole in snow under log. He fed the choker through, then hooked the cable to the choker.
When Tom engages the hydraulics, the rear tower tilts back, lifting the log off the ground. Held in this cradle, the log rides high. The forwarder is powerful, slow, and gentle, with few moving parts. It was masterfully designed and constructed by Chuck and Ross Norton of Lincoln.

David Brynn, VFF conservation forester and executive director, watched over the whole operation. “When forest access trails are lines of grace, they have broad-based dips for slowing, spreading, and sinking the flow of runoff. The legacy log forwarder can easily navigate these dips [which not all logging equipment can] and move around the forest on these paths.”

David’s gleeful as he imagines the possibilities. “With this forwarder, you can go out to a particular tree that you want to harvest. You can directionally fell it toward the path, so the log is easily accessible. The forwarder goes through without a mark, and you can fetch the trees you want to fill your order, just like a shopping cart!”

butt-end of log being carried by special log forwarding trailer.
The 30-inch-diameter log you see here contains about 600 board feet of wood. It represents 6 years of growth of an acre of forest here in Vermont. Within a 12-year period, if you took two of those logs out per acre, you’d be harvesting the growth. In a beautiful small forest like the McEachens’, you can go out and pluck a few mature trees here and there as needed–that’s light-on-the-land forestry in action.
The logs sit ready and waiting for Jon Anderson to truck them to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, where they’ll be milled. And at the end of the day, landowner Ron McEachen (above) is happy and his forest is healthy–mutually beneficial relationship at work.