Land clearing is an important step in any type of development project. It’s also often a very costly process, with heavy equipment and lots of labor. Given the costs and difficulty, it’s important that you approach these projects in the best way from the beginning. To help you find the right process, we are laying out the different methods of land clearing, from DIY to professional land clearing services.
What Exactly Is Land Clearing?
Land clearing is the process of clearing obstacles from land for commercial, residential, or agricultural use. This often marks a transition from the unbroken wilderness or managed timberland to more developed use. This is different from normal periodic timber harvests, where timber is allowed to regenerate in preparation for future harvests, instead being a fundamental change in how the land is being used.
The Importance of Land Clearing
Land clearing is important primarily because it’s the necessary first step before developing land for conventional use. Whether you’re clearing for building, agriculture, or putting the land to another use, having cleared land is essential for successful development of any kind.
Major Methods of Land Clearing
There are a lot of different ways to clear lightly or heavily wooded land. What’s going to work best for you depends on your resources, the density of the flora on the land, and your objectives.
Grubbing and Hand Clearing
Grubbing and hand clearing are the norm for DIY land clearing. Using a combination of hand tools like a chainsaw, loppers, spades, and similar, you can clear light-density wooded land by first grubbing (using digging tools to remove the soil in and around roots) and then pulling, cutting, and otherwise removing plants. This is only truly effective if you’re trying to remove saplings, bushes, undergrowth, brush, and relatively small stones. Larger obstructions are very difficult or time-consuming to remove in this way.
While you can fell trees with a chainsaw by hand, removing the stump is almost impossible with only hand tools. Traditionally, before we had large machines to remove stumps, animals were used to remove stumps, either with force (driving oxen or horses) or by loosening the stump (allowing pigs to dig up the stump’s roots). Most DIYers don’t have access to these traditional helpful animals, making it impractical.
This approach is best suited for small projects, like clearing space for a shed or reclaiming some land from the edge of your woods for a garden. Larger clearing projects require different approaches or extreme time and effort commitments.
Logging, or timber harvesting, is the process of cutting down mature trees and selling them for processing into various products such as dimensional lumber, paper, woodchips, and so on. This process is at the heart of what Day Logging does every day.
For heavily wooded tracts of land, logging is often a necessary first step in clearing land. While stumps are left behind, the profits derived from selling timber can help to fund the removal of the remaining stumps. So, while this isn’t a complete solution, it’s a significant portion of a land-clearing plan for serious land-clearing projects.
Burning away dense vegetation can often be the fastest way to clear a lot of flora. Burnt plant matter can even offer significant nutrition for the soil and kill the seeds left behind by weeds. Most often, this is done by first cutting down all the flora in an area and then burning it in a pile with any necessary local permit.
This method has some serious limitations. Many areas in Maine and New Hampshire restrict fires heavily. This is made more severe by seasonal droughts and elevated fire risks. Additionally, if anything on the land was toxic, such as mold, mushrooms, or poison ivy, not to mention manmade chemicals, burning them releases these toxins in the air. These factors make relying on a burning strategy to clear land unappealing in many situations.
This is the iconic approach to land clearing associated with commercial and residential development. Large machines, such as bulldozers, are used to clear away major obstructions like trees, shrubs, and boulders. This is usually accompanied by manual grubbing using spades and other hand tools to remove smaller obstructions.
The biggest advantage of using bulldozers and similar large machinery is that they’re very good at removing stumps and other large obstructions that are otherwise very difficult to deal with. The disadvantage is that it tends to be one of the most expensive methods of land clearing.
Partner With the Best To Clear Land
If you want to clear wooded land for another use, starting with logging is often the best approach. If you’re working in ME or NH, Day Logging can help you clear your land by harvesting timber. Reach out today to learn more about how we can help.