Reduced Impact Logging
Sustaining Tropical Forests with Reduced Impact Logging
Conventional forestry in the tropics has often led to forest degradation and ultimately slash and burn agriculture, which in the long term has depleted some forests to the point of no return. Reduced impact logging (RIL) is a set of management practices that offers a more sustainable solution to timber harvesting, while continuing to meet rising global demand for tropical woods. The result is a more sustainably managed forest that is harvested at an appropriate level and in such a way that minimizes collateral damage to streams, wildlife, and non-harvest trees.
Proper RIL is usually practiced every 25-50 years, depending on forest type, resulting in minimal disturbance. Timber harvest (and/or carbon credit sales or other ecosystem service credit sales) provides an economic benefit from the forest while retaining a large part of the values associated with an un-harvested forest. The challenge is to produce enough economic benefit from the forest to support the local people sustainably.
Steps Toward Achieving Reduced Impact Logging
RIL comprises the entire spectrum of forest harvesting operations from pre-harvest inventory and planning, selection of merchantable trees and design of infrastructure, to felling, extraction and hauling of logs, and finally post -harvest operations and assessments. Careful selection of trees to be harvested is a first step toward ensuring that conservation principles and future harvesting cycles are appropriately considered. The application of RIL does not comprehensively consider social issues such as land and customary rights although these issues are important in many situations. RIL must be seen as one important step toward responsible or sustainable forest management.
RIL operates within policy and legislative frameworks and technical forest management considerations regarding sustained yield and environmental and social considerations. Forest management planning, including sustained yield planning, dictates what should be done. RIL defines how it will be done.
How does Reduced Impact Logging Stack Up to Conventional Logging?
Reduces soil disturbed in roads, landings, and skid trails by almost 50%
Significantly less canopy opening
Better survival of residual trees
Total cost is 10-15% lower on average
Wood waste is reduced by more than 60%
Reduced machine hours
Reduced injury rate among workers
Increased carbon retention
Many unnecessary roads and skidtrails
Many unnecessary landings that are too large
Substantial canopy opening
Subsequent invasion by vines and pioneer plant species
Significant damage to residual vegetation, including future crop trees
Large number of lost logs
Increased machinery use
Increased injury rate among workers
- Decreased carbon retention
To rapidly estimate the costs and net revenue of reduced-impact vs. conventional logging, financial modeling software is available. Called "Reduced-Impact Logging Simulator," or RILSIM, the software was developed by TFF ex-officio board member Dennis Dykstra; it is available for download at no charge.