We hear “sustainable” a lot these days.  Sustainable paper products.  Sustainable produce and farming.  Sustainable energy generation.  Clearly, “sustainable” has become a bit of a buzz word.  It’s important to understand what sustainability actually is and why it matters in order to separate the wheat from the chaff when the term is thrown around.  In the case of logging, sustainability and master logger certification have become ever more important as we move as an industry past simply clearcutting woodland on a cyclical basis.  In this article we will explore what sustainable logging is and why it’s so important for our economy and environment.

What is Sustainable Logging Anyway?

Sustainable logging is a modern approach to timber harvesting that minimizes the impact on ecosystems while simultaneously protecting the economic value of forests.  In fact, by protecting forests from over-harvesting, the land can produce far more economic value in the long term. This practice can be broken down into a simple multistep process.


1. Assessment

The first step is assessing what level of logging can be regenerated indefinitely by a woodland and which timber harvest systems are closest to natural events. Though this isn’t the case in Maine and New Hampshire, areas with frequent forest fires, clearcutting emulates the effects of a forest fire. Life in these regions have adapted to these kinds of events.  This leads to more opportunities for the ecosystem to recover and regenerate.  


In forests that are not well adapted to such major events, shelterwood and selective cutting systems are closer to the natural cycle of forest regeneration as in Maine and New Hampshire.  Adult trees will fall in wind storms or erosion along river and stream banks might expose tree root systems and adult trees may fall due to inadequate anchoring for their roots.  Thus, soil integrity and the local ecosystem are better adapted to gradual harvests that minimize overall impact.


2. Planning

Once the regenerative capacity of a forest is understood, a plan can be assembled that doesn’t exceed natural regeneration, or even facilitates it, and minimizes the impact on the forest land.  What such a plan looks like depends on the environment itself, but often it includes a multipart plan to harvest timber in relatively small harvests every 5 to 20 years inway that keeps enough adult trees to reseed abundantly, while harvesting prime trees to ensure a profitable endeavour.  The full cycle of tree growth is approximately 80 years on average, though there is variation between species that needs to be taken into account when developing a complete logging plan.

Balancing the needs for profit and ecological stability is key, but a great sustainable plan will also consider additional factors, such as the changes to your land’s wood resources over time.  This may mean harvesting less or differently today in order to maximize the harvestable resources down the line when demand might be expected to be higher or more urgent.  This makes personal economic sense, but also serves the community’s needs as a whole.


Planning for selective and shelterwood timber harvesting systems also accounts for difficulties with terrain, cataloging any sensitive or endangered fauna or flora in the environment as well as strategies to minimize the impact on these elements of the ecosystem.  Planning skid trails with a minimal footprint through the most stable parts of the woodland helps us minimize impact on the local ecosystem. 


3. Management

Once you have a complete plan that accounts for the long term factors like regeneration and maximizing the stability of the local ecosystem, we can help you with active management.  This means implementing the chosen timber harvest system or systems on a schedule that retains the most effective regeneration of your woodland. 

The key to this stage is having a reliable, trustworthy logging company. At Day Logging, we believe we can be your essential partner in executing a forest management plan.  While some loggers might take shortcuts when carrying out your plan, Day Logging is a member of the certified master logger program.  This means that our reputation and certification are directly tied to our follow through on sustainable logging practices.  Logging companies without this certification may be tempted to rely on traditional, less environmentally focused and sustainable logging practices.

This photo depicts a log-bearing truck driving away from the camera on a skid trail through a forest, fully loaded with logsThe Importance Of Sustainability

There are two obvious benefits to sustainable logging.  First is that sustainable logging leaves the beautiful landscapes that define Maine and New Hampshire intact and healthy in both the short and long term.  Second is that sustainable logging offers more stable, long term, predictable timber income for landowners than more extreme approaches that don’t account for the regeneration and health of harvested land.


The beauty and health of our forests isn’t just an aesthetic victory.  It’s estimated that in Maine we recapture 60% to 75% of the carbon we produce every year with our woodlands.  Further, since 83% of Maine’s land is covered by forest and 89% of New Hampshire’s land has tree cover, the health of these ecosystems is essential for our air, water, and soil quality, which affects everything from asthma to fishing to agricultural food production.  Forests are at the heart of the environmental stability and natural resources of both Maine and New Hampshire.


The long term economic impacts of poorly managed forests could be very dramatic for our region, but they’ll be felt more acutely by those who own the poorly managed forests.  Without a sustainable logging plan it’s all too easy to over harvest, or to create the large tree cover gaps that disrupt the integrity of the forest.  Large clearings reduce the protection trees, other plants, and animals have from strong winds and other weather events that can cause problems for the entire system.

The Day Logging Difference

Day Logging has been in business since 1946 and is proud to be family-owned throughout its history. Our specialty lies in balancing the need for wood our clients have and making sure we conserve our regional natural resources and the Earth as a whole, as we only have one planet.

We employ a range of professionals and we’re proud to serve landowners and mills across Maine & New Hampshire. We can help you with your wood needs and other compliances. Contact us today to learn more.