Harvesting timber: Visual impacts

Harvesting timber will dramatically change the appearance of your woods.  Even a low-intensity partial harvest will require a cleared landing and skid roads, along with deposition of residual slash.  Most harvests are done with large, heavy equipment.  Even when operated carefully, equipment can leave its mark.

Many landowners are surprised when they first visit their woods after a harvest.  “Timber shock” is understandable—clearcut areas look very different from the forests there previously.  Partial harvest sites can look messy too, with broken limbs, slash, and skid roads throughout the woods.

But Minnesota’s woods are resilient.  Many landowners are equally surprised at how quickly the site greens up again.  Careful harvests do not diminish the productivity of the site, and vibrant woods quickly regrow.

Two-year time series of an aspen clearcut site
Click an image for a better view.
MN aspen clearcut site just after harvest. Click for a better view.
just after harvest
MN aspen clearcut site 1 year after harvest. Click for a better view.
one year after
MN aspen clearcut site 2 years after harvest. Click for a better view.
two years after

If you’re considering a harvest, be sure to do a few things first:

  1. Talk to others who have harvested timber recently.  Visit their properties, look at pictures, and talk to them about their experiences with timber shock.  If you don’t know of anybody, talk to your forester or logger for references.
  2. Visit a couple of public land harvest sites.  You should be able to find harvest sites by calling your local County Land Department or DNR Forestry office.
  3. At a minimum, visit the University of Wisconsin’s Virtual Visit to a Timber Harvest Site to view before and after images from a southwest Wisconsin clearcut harvest site.

MN clearcut site with biomass chipped & removed. Click for a better view.

You can read more about visual impacts of timber harvesting, including ways to reduce the visual impact of your own harvest, in the chapter on timber harvesting in Minnesota’s Voluntary Site-Level Forest Management Guidelines.
For a more general outline of Minnesota’s Guidelines, download an overview published by the Minnesota Forestry Association.

Eli 's work addresses Minnesota forest ecology & management. He's based in St Paul.

You may also like