History and future walk hand in hand

Forest management is a long-term project that aims to provide the forest industry with raw materials. The forest industry aims to provide other industries and the public with packaging, toilet paper, tissues, diapers, furniture, newspapers, magazines, houses, flooring, furnishings, … The list is too long to fit in here … The aims have been around for over 100 years, but the methods to reach them have changed over time.

History and future walk hand in hand 

We are getting used to certification and other types of demands from the public, environmentalists, and politicians. We have adapted and developed our methods to manage the forest. Sometimes we ask ourselves: “How could we do so wrong?” But did we really? 

Log Max Harvester Heads

It may seem so now, but 40 + years ago when I started working in the forest, we did everything according to the current rules. No one, or very few thought it was wrong back then. 

A brutal machine in a young forest. Common in 1979, but not today. Photo: Per Jonsson

What seemed to be right back then

As I’ve mentioned, I educate loggers, machine operators, and manual forest workers, on nature and cultural considerations. Recently, a forest owner of a big estate joined a course, one that is getting close to 80. He has been managing his forest all his life and we came to discuss how we did things 40 – 50 years ago, approx. when I started my work in the forest. He said: “We didn’t do anything wrong. We did it according to recommendations from the authorities and researchers.” And that’s the truth. 

Have a look at the photo above. It was taken by me at the Elmia Wood show in 1979. A Kockum 850 with an extended loading area to carry two piles of 3-meter length pulpwood. It was equipped with a long (I think 10-meter) crane, and it was operating in a young commercial thinning. One of the largest forwarders on the market working in a young thinning at a forestry show. Why? 

This was before harvesters were common in thinning. Most thinning was made by chainsaw, and this was an attempt to increase the production of logging in thinning. If the forwarder had a long crane, the worker didn’t have to carry the wood so far. You need a stable forwarder for a long crane, and to make it even more efficient, the forwarder was extended to carry two piles instead of one. So, consequently, you need a large forwarder. Logical, isn’t it? 

We don’t see many JD 1910, Komatsu 895, Ponsse Mammoth, or Rottne F20 in young thinning nowadays, do we? 

Ancient and cultural monuments

One of the most common ancient or cultural landmarks that you will find here in south Sweden is stone walls. They were made as fences to keep the cattle in and wolfs out, and to mark borders between estates. Material for them was found in the fields they surrounded. The soil here is rocky, “stone rich” so to say. Nowadays those walls are highly protected and should be marked with 1,3-meter stumps by the harvester for the following machines to see, for years to come. But it wasn’t always like that. 

A “saved” stone wall in the forest. Photo: Per Jonsson

Back in the 70s, a forest owner could get a grant from the Swedish Forest Agency to restore forest roads. My dad and his cousin decided to take the opportunity and fix a 400-meter stretch of one of our roads in the forest. On one side of this road there was forest land, on the other there were fields. Between the road and the fields, there was a stone wall. 

A forester from the Agency oversaw the operation and he called my dad one day asking: “Where do we put the stone wall?” 

He estimated that it was easier to remove the stone wall than to cut down a line of trees on the other side of the road to get the space the “new” road required. “Dump it in the forest,” Dad said, and so it was done. 

I’m not completely innocent either; When I was operating a forwarder-mounted chipper under a power line, there was a stone wall, like in the photo above, crossing the power line. The machine had a blade in the front. I lowered it and gave gas. Afterward, I told the bosses about it, and they thanked me for making a hole in the wall that could be used in the future. 

If any of these events would have happened today, I, Dad, and the Agency’s forester could have ended up in jail, or at least had to pay a hefty fine. And probably restore the walls in question. 

Development – that’s what it is and it’s natural. 

Today it may seem that what we did was criminal. But, according to the standards at the time, we didn’t do anything wrong. As for our road project, the authority, the Forest Agency, was in charge. They should know what’s right and wrong. (By the way, the road in question is in excellent shape still today, even though we haven’t done much to keep it that way. Well done the Agency.)

Today we have the certification standards to regulate those things and the awareness has grown. We know more about which considerations to make and why. Learning along the way is natural. 

Nature considerations are clear: It’s about surviving. We need biodiversity for humanity to go on. That’s why we must protect specific biotopes. But all ancient and cultural landmarks and monuments – Do we really need them? 

This is much discussed during the courses I do. We do a lot from the forestry side, to protect and avoid destroying stone walls and other landmarks in the forest. But when the forest land we have cut is transformed into an industrial estate, those landmarks are worth nothing. Society’s development comes first. 

Of course, we can learn from history which is a good reason to keep protecting as many landmarks and monuments as possible. That’s how history and the future go hand in hand. 

Looking ahead

There will always be changes based on new knowledge and opinion. When looking back on my 45-year career in the forest, there have been many changes. The most noticeable is that you will find very few deep track marks after the machines today. In my days, we didn’t think of this at all. The wood should be forwarded to the landing and that was the only important thing. 

The development of machines and equipment, like bogie tracks have helped to make things better. Walking around in a recently thinned forest is much nicer today. The development will continue and the demands from the public and the environmentalists will keep increasing. We must make sure to be one step ahead to secure our future jobs in the forest. 

The good thing for us is that the raw material that comes from the forest is excellent, both as material and from an environmental point of view. But we must count on updating our methods, again and again … 

Photo: Per Jonsson
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