We recently logged our property about 38 acreas 600,000 GBFand would be interested in having our slash piles chipped instead of burned. Is there any advantage? We are feeling like we can not get them all burned in time for planting in the fall.

Are there any incentives?

Hello Ricky,

Thank you for your question.  Dick Courter,a professional consulting forester in Oregon provided us with this answer:

This is an interesting question. Many of us Foresters have explored and wanted to accomplish this type of practice for years. However, while one advantage is putting what I would characterize as fertilizer (chipped residue) back into the soil, and another might be potential revenue if chips could be transported from the property, the reality is that usually neither is plausible primarily because it is very costly.

I must assume the slash piles are scattered around the 38 acres and not many if any are close to access roads, thus, effectively eliminating most portable chipping machines especially those capable of being transported on highways without the need for loading on trailers. I also must assume the land is somewhat flat and not steep. While crawler style chipping or tub grinders are available, they are expensive to move about and would be somewhat difficult to move about in the woods to each slash pile. They could only blow chips back onto the soil and because of numerous other factors could not load chips for transport without using some style of reloading, again costly. And, an even distribution of scattering chips could be a problem. Likely the chips would end up in piles that would require the expense of scattering by a crawler tractor.

We find it difficult even to chip  decked logs at roadside in the woods these days because of the expense and lack of that type of market. One first thinks of biomass, but that market is not well developed and if there happens to be a facility it quite often is far distant and cost of getting material to it does not pencil out. Even when markets for these chips are available, physical location makes a big difference. If roads are not capable of allowing chip trailers to navigate, the project is again dead on arrival. From my experience most privately owned timber lands in the West do not have roads capable of moving chip trailers across. Many are barely capable of allowing log truck traffic. Of course, the log truck stinger helps to steer the trailer where a chip trailer just tracks where it wants to go without steering assistance.

Without having the opportunity to first inspect the project, the feasibility of accomplishing this task could not adequately be assessed. The commits provided are generalized and likely may or may not apply to his specific question.

But suffice it to say, likely it would be very expensive and likely there would be next to no revenue generated. While pile burning is not cheap either, likely it would be the least cost alternative short of leaving the piles in place to rot away.

On another note. I am not sure where this property owner is located. It references fall planting. Normally, nurseries in Oregon and the West do not begin lifting seedlings until winter months with planting being completed in Jan. - Feb., and even up to April.

Smoke management in Oregon is an issue and pile burning requires a smoke management plan issued by the State of Oregon. Thus, burning piles can be an issue depending upon where they are located within the State.

If this landowner is within 100 or so miles of Portland, I would be happy to work with them in a consulting capacity to get the job done. Or, I could refer another Consulting Forester if they are farther away.

Dick Courter, ACF, CF#23
Professional Consulting Forester