Environmental Protection - Logging.
Logging is a term that refers to the process of cutting trees to get logs for commercial purpose. It involves cutting of trees, harvesting logs, transportation of logs to the mills and processing of logs into timber or other products eg. wood chips or wood for producing paper. Logging can be done in two ways ie. selective and clear felling. In selective logging, trees of certain diameter and species or higher values (or higher grades) only are harvested. In clear felling, all trees are felled regardless of quality and logs are harvested and processed into desired products. The waste is burnt or utilised in any downstream processes eg. furniture manufacturing, wood chip making or used as mulch. Clear felling is usually carried out because of the other interest on the land for example agriculture (oil palm) or to remove diseased trees and /or replanting of trees for commercial harvesting in the future. Selective logging will be discussed in this article.
Logging must be carried out in a sustainable manner ie. financially and environmentally sound manner. The environmental costs should not exceed the financial benefits. The logging should be carried out in a manner that does not greatly affect the land, the animals, birds and human beings to an extend that they are not able to recover from the change.
If you are a forest resource owner (like in Papua New Guinea) or a friend of the earth and involved in environmental protection. Here are a list of things you need to know to ensure that the logging was carried out in an environmentally sustainable manner.
1.0 Logging Permit/Licence
Firstly, anyone involved in commercial harvest of logs must have a permit or licence. This document is obtained from the government via the office in charge of Forest Resources.The permit will state the terms and conditions on how the logging is to be carried out. For example it will state how many cubic meters of logs are to be harvested each year, how many setups (hacters) to be logged, what diameters trees can be felled, what species of trees are prohibited. Breaching of this terms and conditions will imply loss of licence/permit and/or large fines.
There are also other guidelines that are necessary to follow eg. Environment and Logging Code of Practice, Waste Management Plans and International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) guidelines.
The purpose of a permit is to ensure there is control on the activity. If there is no control, the company will harvest as much as it likes and can carry out the activity quickly and leave. Working by the conditions on the permit also allow sufficient time for the resources to recover and regenerate. If there is no permit or licence the logging activity is illegal and a disastrous environmental outcomes will be expected.
2. Planning and Approval
Before any logging takes place, a plan is prepared. The plan will consist of maps with details of where roads, skid tracks, log ponds, land storage yards will be constructed or placed. The maps will also show the exact area and the number of hectares to be harvested. Other details such as number of trees, their species will also be submitted. These data are usually collected and compiled by a survey team prior to the felling of trees.
The plan plus all the necessary information will be submitted with a application letter to the office of Authority eg. National Forest Authority. The Forestry Authority will check and if all it's criteria are taken into consideration, approval will be given. Logging will then commence.
During the logging operation wharf, roads, residential camps, workshops, offices will be constructed.
A wharf is required for ships (buyers) to call in and collect logs or timber. It will be also used by the company to transport it's machinery for road construction and operations. The construction of the wharf ie. the digging and dredging will bring about changes to the natural system. Coral reef will be dug up, fishing grounds are disturbed or destroyed. Sediment levels in the water will increase thereby affecting the quality of the water. This sort of activity should be monitored closely and that best possible means should be deployed to construct the wharf to ensure there is little destruction to the natural system.
Getting to the trees and transporting of logs will require roads.
- Roads must be constructed in a way that does not cause too much disturbance to the soil. The top soil should not be pushed into streams and rivers or placed in a way that will cause sediments to eventually enter the water ways.
- Water ways must not be obstructed. Culverts are positioned accordingly to ensure water flow is not restricted.
- Sufficient drainage or runoff channels must be created when constructing roads .
- Construction of skid tracks (tracks for pulling out logs onto the main road or land yard), must be planned properly to make sure there is not too much disturbance to the soil. There must be a minimum number of tracks as possible. Skid tracks may sometimes be diverted and not follow the plan.
- Road are usually of certain width. Clearing for constructing roads should not exceed this.
This is where logs are stored or piled for transportation to the mill or shipped.
- Creating yards to store logs will require clear felling of trees and disturbing top soil, so ensure that space created is not necessarily too big and that the top soil is managed properly.
- Log ponds and storage yards must be placed reasonably apart. For example there must be 3 storage yards for every setup. As too many will mean too much clearance, ie tree cutting and disturbance to the soil.
- Log storage yards near the wharf must be located as far as possible from the water's edge because sediments from the pond are most likely to be washed into the sea. The tree bark also decompose on storage and a dark coloured liquid is usually produced on contact with rain water. This may be washed into the water and affect the water's physical appearance.
This is the actual cutting down of trees.
- Trees should be of certain diameters and above to be cut. Tress below the specified diameter (diameter at breast height) are known as undersized trees. Undersized trees should not be cut. Selected trees only will be cut.They are marked with a visible mark eg. paint or tied with a coloured ribbon.
- Trees should be felled in away that should avoid destroying or falling on the other trees in stock.
- There should be no clear felling. Sometime the forest is so thick, that the persons cutting the trees will be tempted to clear large areas to get to trees that are of high value.
- No trees should be cut outside the designated area (setup). This is illegal.
Riparian or Buffer Zones
- These zones are created near the village, rivers streams, sea and any other areas of significance eg. cultural site, protected sites, national parks. A riparian zone is an area for example 10 meters from a river that is not disturbed. The purpose of the zone is to ensure there is no noise scaring animals away or prevent sediments from entering the streams and rivers and maintaining the natural conditions of the creeks and rivers and the aquatic systems.
Protected Species (Flora & Fauna) and Protected Areas
There may be an area that is protected by law because of it's significance as a an area where there is a endangered birds or animals or where the tree is a protected because of it's cultural value or is a national park for example.
- Protected areas should not be disturbed or logged.
Any waste generated by the logging activity must be properly managed.
- Make sure there is no log cut and left to rot in the log pond, storage yards or in or near the roadsides. Any logs if not sold as whole log should be taken to the mill and processed into timber.
- Have a downstream processing facility will cater for all the waste generated eg. a paper mill, a wood chip facility or a mulch or a fertiliser producing business, or a furniture making business or off cuts from the mill can be sold to locals for building houses, fences or making wood artifacts. This sort of activity would be ideal in taking care of waste.
- Any waste from the workshops and field or mobile workshops should be managed properly. Waste likely to be encountered will be fuel drums, oily and grease covered rags, oil contaminated soil, old equipment parts and components. Fuel refilling areas should have bunds to contain any spillage.
- Waste from the camps or residential areas should be also managed properly. The sort of waste encountered here will be sewage, kitchen waste water and food scraps. Sewage should not be discharged into water ways.
- chemicals used in treating timber is properly handled and that any contaminated container or material is disposed off or stored in the right place.
- any ships that come into collect logs should be monitored and not allowed to dispose their waste near the water front or where the shipped is docked.
4. After Logging
After logging of an area (set up). It is expected that the area is rehabilitated.
- Tropical forest tend to naturally grow back quickly, however, usually with shrubs so it is advisable to plant seedling that can become trees of commercial value in the future. Where there is excessive disturbance to soil, ensure that the area is re vegetated with seedlings of similar species. The company should have a nursery for seedlings.
- Culverts or any other temporarily structures for crossing should be removed to allow natural flow of water.
- Roads if there will not be used later on should be ripped up and re vegetated.
- Any non biodegradable material used for the construction of the camps or workshop should be removed and dumped were appropriate. Eg. metals can be collected and sold to recycling companies.
The whole idea of the management and monitoring is to make sure that what is happening in the field is the same as on the plan and is not in breach of any requirements in the permit, logging and waste management plans.