After logging’s done, what happens to the debris that’s left behind?
11.09.2021

Now that we’ve officially entered western Oregon’s wet season, many of us are ready to snuggle up at home with a warm cup of tea and a good book or movie. It also happens to be the time when the conditions are safest for forest landowners to burn the woody debris piles, commonly known as “slash,” that are left behind after an area has been logged on their property. 

As part of the timber harvest planning process, it is important for landowners and forest managers to consider how to manage the woody debris generated by logging, including tree tops, limbs and broken pieces. To aid forest landowners with this process, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI), with the help from some of our forestry education partners, published an informative publication called Managing Logging Slash Piles in Northwest Oregon on the best management practices for piling and burning woody debris.

The pamphlet and an accompanying “how to” video available on our landowner education YouTube channel give an overview of the practices and methods for piling and burning any woody material that’s not left in the forest to provide nutrients and wildlife habitat or used as firewood. Often, forest landowners decide to manage large quantities of slash by burning it, removing the physical barrier to planting trees to replace those that were harvested. It may sound counterintuitive, but burning slash piles can also reduce fire hazards on the landscape. 

Both the pamphlet and the video focus on the Douglas-fir and hemlock forests that grow in northwest Oregon, where dry summers are followed by fall rainstorms and east-wind events, although the information included may apply across the state.

Contributors to the development of the pamphlet and video included the Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon State University Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Program, the Northwest Oregon Forest Protective Association, Associated Oregon Loggers and Keep Oregon Green

If you want to dive even further into the topic of how to safely burn slash, a webinar titled “Best Practices of Managing Logging Slash Piles and Burning,” was hosted by Tree School Online. The presenters were Mike Cafferata with the Oregon Department of Forestry and Rodney Jacobs with Stimson Lumber Company and the Northwest Oregon Forest Protective Association. It can be found in the archives of Tree School Online classes under the date it was originally hosted, May 4, 2021.

Of course there are alternatives to managing woody debris left after a wildfire, windstorm or timber harvest that don’t involve burning it. Some landowners may choose to find biomass fuel solutions or grind up tree limbs and sticks into wood chips. 

While there are many viable options to choose from, piling and burning slash is often the most economical choice. The Managing Logging Slash Piles pamphlet provides a checklist of things to consider when choosing whether or not to burn, including consideration if burning is even allowed in your area. 

If you do decide to burn, make sure to take the proper safety precautions to minimize potential risks and liability. Pile-burning is an art and science of its own and deserves proper time for planning and execution. Hopefully, our educational materials on managing logging slash piles serve as a good place to start. 

For the forest,

Julie Woodward
Acting Director of Forestry

 

Where you can learn more about slash pile creation and burning:

·       Download or order a copy of the Managing Logging Slash Piles in Northwest Oregon pamphlet at OregonForests.org/publications.

·       Watch the “Slash Piles: How to Safely Build and Burn” video on YouTube.

·       Watch a recording of the Tree School Online “Best Practices of Managing Logging Slash Piles and Burning” webinar at KnowYourForest.org/TreeSchoolOnline.

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