Silvicultural treatment equipment to accelerate the development of late successional reserves

Across the United States, 35-80 year old replanted clearcuts are coming of age and conflicting with new forest management plans. Rather than managing forests for maximum production, many areas are now being managed as late-successional reserves. With this change land managers are facing a new problem: how do you turn tightly spaced monocrop tree farms into the quality habitat characteristic of late successional forests?

To deal with this issue, silvicultural treatments are typically prescribed that focus on commercial thinning to:

  • increase diversity of tree species ,
  • decrease the competition between trees for light and available nutrients,
  • create fragmented openings for spatial diversity
  • open up the canopy for light penetration to the forest floor.

Supplementing thinning treatments with the use of Slashbuster® mastication equipment offers some unique advantages:

Soil impact reduction

A patented third boom extends reach thirty-five feet or more from the carrier, reducing the area of ground contact to less than 20% of the treated area. This long reach is especially beneficial near riparian areas where the machine can remain far from the edge of sensitive boundaries.

Where the machine tracks do contact the ground, the mulch can often be traveled upon to further reduce soil disturbance.

Soil improvement

After the silvicultural treatment is completed the masticated mulch:

  • controls erosion by physically impeding the flow of surface water,
  • provides a food source for mycorrhizal and other fungi,
  • provides habitat for invertebrates,
  • buffers soil moisture and temperature extremes,
  • releases nutrients over time for long-term forest productivity.

Reducing the need for temporary road construction

Track-mounted excavators can travel distances across terrain that are only limited by refueling considerations. Their range from the nearest access road can be further extended by fuel delivery ATVs.

Slashbuster® mastication may be applied as the primary treatment method in areas too sensitive for road construction or not valuable enough to commercially thin.

Coarse woody debris and snag creation

The integrated material handler and third boom makes Slashbuster® equipment well suited for coarse woody debris and snag creation:

  • CWD can be created by limbing and felling 18+ inch DBH standing trees, moving them with the integrated material handler and placing them according to prescription.
  • Trees can be limbed and topped up to forty feet high for snag habitat

Integrating CWD and snag creation with thinning treatments better simulates the characteristics of a late-successional forest and negates the need implementing a separate project at a later time to deal with these important habitat issues.

Commercial thinning debris cleanup

Mastication equipment treats post-thinning debris more safely and cost-effectively than extraction or hand treatment. Twenty tons per acre of logging debris can be reduced to an average depth of less than one inch, which poses much less fire hazard and much less of a barrier to large herbivores. Alternatively, the debris can be raked and piled to provide islands of habitat for small mammals and herps.

Whether it be as a stand alone treatment or as a supplement to commercial thinning, with all these economic and ecological benefits is not surprising to learn that Slashbuster® equipment is being utilized across the nation by the USDA Forest Service and other federal and state agencies to address the issue of habitat restoration.