Winter Harvesting in Your Woodlot

  From the Feb 21, 2017 Issue of Agri-News
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 While felling trees is always a dangerous process, during the winter it can be even more risky, says Toso Bozic, woodlot extension specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

“Winter is when many woodlot owners decide to harvest their trees either for personal use or for sale. The main advantage of doing it then is that you won’t damage the soil, which could cause rutting, erosion, compaction, etc. As well, you won’t disturb wildlife species reproduction which is crucial for their survival. Some disadvantages are cold weather, short working days, poor visibility, snow and ice, and equipment not adjusted to working in cold conditions.”

Bozic says safety should be the top priority for any landowner when harvesting. “Never work alone while tree harvesting and always make sure that there is somebody nearby who can help you immediately if an accident occurs. Some key safety components when harvesting during the winter are chainsaw use, weather conditions, site condition at the tree, and tree falling.”

Bozic has the following points for each component.

Chainsaw Use

  • Working with chainsaws is a very dangerous business. Over 30 per cent of woodlot harvest accidents involve chainsaw use.
  • Cutting trees with a chainsaw is a skill that should be learned and practiced by starting with cutting wood on the ground, taking courses, and practicing with an experienced and certified logger.
  • Proper protective gear, including gloves, eye protection, cut resistant footgear and trousers should be worn. For a full list, visit Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety web site.
  • Working with a chainsaw is very physically demanding and many people overestimate how much physical work and fitness is required. When an operator gets tired, they should put the chainsaw down and rest.
  • Wind, cold, snow and slippery conditions make timber cutting extremely dangerous.
  • Avoid felling on windy days; even a light wind may cause trees to fall the wrong way with disastrous results.
  • Snow and ice impair vision and may cause limbs to fall unexpectedly. Snags may also fall without warning.
  • Be aware of cold temperatures - you may not notice fingers or toes freezing while working or during a break.
  • Cold temperatures also affect equipment - snow powder can be sucked into the air intake and plug the air filter and other parts of chainsaw.
  • Constant warming and freezing may prevent parts from moving or just freeze the equipment entirely.
Site evaluation
  • If you don’t fell a tree properly it will be difficult to pull it out of the site. Always check out the surrounding area for dead/snag trees that are rotten or have broken tops.
  • Heavy branching and limbs can snap and be very dangerous. Also, watch for any leaning trees. As well, changes in terrain or slope require special consideration.
  • Before you cut a tree, assess the conditions around it. Clear away snow, brush, stumps, wood, logs and other obstacles in an area about three metres around the tree.
Felling the Tree
  • Clear an escape route at a 45o angle from a line backwards from the direction of fall. Generally, a couple of steps in this direction is adequate for safety.
  • Determine the felling cuts that you want to make.
  • As soon as tree starts to fall start moving away using your escape route to your previously decided safe spot.
  • Watch any swaying tree tops caused by the fall for falling tops and limbs.
“Never work alone, make sure you are physically fit, use proper equipment, and understand the process of cutting trees,” says Bozic. “If you don’t meet one of these criterion, please contact a certified chainsaw logger or certified arborist if you are removing few individual trees. If you have a large woodlot, you can hire a professional tree harvesting company that will come with the right equipment and do the job for you. At the end of the day, your safety has to come first.”

Toso Bozic
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Toso Bozic.
This document is maintained by Ken Blackley.
This information published to the web on February 10, 2017.