Forests and Timber >
Methods > Clearcutting
Most folks in Oregon have at least seen
a clearcut, as clearcutting is both a highly visible and
common reproduction method. It is also the most controversial.
clearcut is an area of forest land where most standing live
trees are logged in a single operation and few merchantable
trees remain after the harvest. Some trees remain, as is
required by the Oregon Forest Practice Rules, and prompt
reforestation starts a new forest cycle. There are some
similarities between a harvest clearcut and a forest opening
caused by natural disturbances like wildfires,windstorms,
flooding, or volcanic eruptions like that of Mount Saint
Helens in southwest Washington State back in 1980. While
clearcuts also differ from these disturbances, they do the
job of creating the opening that many plants and animals
need to flourish. There are benefits in using the clearcut
method. For instance, a clearcut opens up the harvest unit,
making it easier to control weeds and pests. It also makes
the regeneration of sun-loving trees, like Douglas-fir,
more successful. Since a clearcut receives more sunlight,
there are improved growing conditions for other sun-loving
shrubs, herbs, and grasses food for edge
specific animals like deer and elk.
consider clearcuts from the perspective of wood fiber production.
In a clearcut a larger volume of wood is harvested within
a single harvest unit than if trees were selectively removed.
One result of this is that we disturb a smaller amount of
land to get the same volume, and it typically costs less.
We can also use the clearcut method to remove large pockets
of trees that are infected with an insect or disease, thereby
limiting the infection if it is undesirable. Issues associated
with clearcutting have led to controversy. First, a fresh
clearcut is considered by many to be an eyesore many people
visit the forest to see large trees, and a clearcut has
few large, standing trees. Some people look at a clearcut
and do not see the healthy young trees regenerating on it.
A clearcut to them appears barren even after young trees
have begun to grow. Clearcuts also have been associated
with landslides on steep high-risk sites. Finally, a clearcut
changes the structure of an old forest for many years--
the general public prefers to see and visit older forests,
and some plants and animals depend on older forests as habitat.
Oregon we have rules that guide us on how we can and can't
do clearcuts. Recent revisions to the Oregon Forest Practices
Act now place a 120-acre maximum size limit on clearcuts
and limit harvest activities adjacent to scenic highways.
Some folks have begun to use smaller clearcuts of 30 to
40 acres in size, because smaller clearcuts increase road
access for fire control, and are seen as less offensive
than large ones.
Clearcutting and the Biology of Douglas-fir Forests
and Wildlife | Oregon
Forest Practices Act