Today I thought I’d share a quick blog on some of the planning work I’ve done recently that required us to be up in a helicopter and share some photos from the air!
In forestry helicopters are used to assist with tree planting, wildfire fighting, layout, surveys and more. In this case, we used the helicopter to fly over top of blocks we plan to harvest before they were laid out. This gives us an idea of the access that we have into the blocks, the quality and density of the trees, and helps us look out for sensitive features to avoid like streams.
In this first picture, we can see how much of a deciduous and coniferous mix there is in many of the forests that Mercer works with. This requires cooperation between Mercer, which harvests mostly aspen for making pulp, and other companies that produce lumber from conifers like spruce and pine.
Pre-existing cutlines are often included in the plan as road locations where possible. These cutlines may have varying degrees of reforestation occurring but we are able to minimize the impact of creating new roads by re-using these features. An example of this can be seen here on the right.
The next picture shows an example of why these flights are so valuable. Being able to see from above helps us plan ways of going around or crossing streams or flooded areas with the strategy that is the least impactful on the watercourse as well as the most operationally efficient.
And finally, this green sea of aspen shown in the last image is an example of a deciduous block without a lot of spruce or pine mixed in. Pure stands of aspen are ideal for the efficient harvesting of deciduous trees but are often not readily available.
Beaver dams, steep slopes, access routes, and places to land a helicopter during layout are other elements we may be looking for during this process. While data and imagery are available to help plan the blocks, seeing it from the sky can often provide a much clearer and more current picture of the forest. This information helps to inform efficient and ecologically sound decisions regarding roads, access, whether to keep or drop a block, and avoiding environmentally sensitive features.
Thanks for reading!