Salvaging Dean

I've been documenting a logging operation in Santa Maria Poniente, trying to keep track of how much wood is extracted, how long it takes to do so and (in the next phase) how much forest is destroyed in the process.

A few years back, the ejido had a pretty good forest management plan. The Permanent Forested Area (5,000 ha = 12,355 acres) was divided into 25 equal sections, one of which would be selectively logged each year for 25 years before repeating the cycle. They were on year 7 when hurricane Dean hit.

In the two years since then, Santa Maria's been doing what the people in the biz call "salvage logging" - pulling out only those trees that have been knocked down or damaged by the storm. The problem now is that the wood is starting to rot, making the amount of usable wood per tree less and less.
As I'm following Placo the sawer around, he rejects several trees because of the rotting issue. He gets paid by the log, but a crappy log won't get him any money because it will only get rejected at the log landing. So he carefully inspects each tree before deciding whether its worth his time, sometimes making an exploratory cut to check out the wood.

Once he decides to get into a tree, his job is to get it on the ground (if its only partly fallen) and cut a saleable, relatively straight log out of it. I was impressed by how little wood is pulled from each tree. Probably a little under a third of the usable wood, just the initial straight part of the trunk, was taken from each tree. There's gotta be a way to get that up, but I can't figure out how to get past the fact that its just not worth it for these guys to pull out branches.

As we were traveling through the forest, Placo showed me the navigation system they were using to find trees. At each trailhead and at each split in the trail there's a stick pointing ahead and displaying the number and type of tree. After the tree finders identify potential trees, a field boss comes through to make sure the're really there (the treefinders get paid by the tree) and that they're legal. In this case that means making sure the tree is either standing dead, leaning forward and about to fall or on the ground already. If the tree's legit, the field boss puts an "R" on the marker. And I thought Placo was just walking around at random!

It's been one of the hottest days I've experienced so far, in large
part because of the lack of tree cover from the storm damage. "El Monte antes no era asi," ("The Hills didn't used to be like this") I hear over and over again here in the ejido. "You used to be able to see a deer from 200 meters (think yards) away. The hurricane knocked everything down."

Santa Maria (and its forest management plan) is waiting for the hills to get back to normal. Standing here in a hot, canopy gap ridden forest, the product of a hurricane cycle predicted to rise in frequency and intensity, I can't help but think this might be the new normal.



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pregnancy said...

Santa Maria and its forest management plan is waiting for the hills to get back to normal. I hope their Plans will go right and they will achieve their maximum growth.