Volume 24, Number 1
Winter Weather and Wet Soil Conditions Hinder Missouri Logging
By Lynn Barnickol | Missouri Consulting Foresters Association
The storm of January 10, 11, and 12, 2020 produced torrential rain, ice, and snow that saturated soils.
Foresters previously reported having timber sales on hold because of wet soils, and the recent precipitation
events only magnified the problem of poor logging conditions. The rain and flooding during the summer
of 2019 prevented mill yards from receiving the usual supply of logs for the winter, making the current
moist soil conditions even more detrimental to the timber supply.
The Old Farmer's Almanac and NOAA Weather Service both predict below normal to seasonal
temperatures and precipitation for the winter months of 2020. This offers hope of improved logging
conditions, but Missouri weather is, as usual, difficult to predict.
When muddy conditions prevail, logging becomes difficult and can cause ruts which damage tree roots
and the soil. The harvest of timber when soils are wet also causes additional maintenance problems for
equipment. Hauling from mud-filled landings drags the wet, slick soil onto roads and presents a hazard for
drivers. Processing mud-caked logs in the mills can damage the debarker teeth, saws, the carriage set
works, chipper knives, and bearings and increase cost of production. Ultimately, muddy logs are friends to
The best hope for improved logging conditions is freezing temperatures that allow some timber harvest
to take place. For the logger, it likely means starting early in the morning when the ground is still frozen
and quitting by noon when the surface thaws. Adding rock to soft places in forest roads and the entrance to
highways can also help to contain mud. If weather and soil conditions do not quickly improve, there will be
considerable pressure to get logs to mills or face lay-offs and slow-downs. Perhaps for now, it is best to
continue planning for a future harvest but wait for better logging conditions. We can continue with
management planning, forest inventories, and marking trees for sale knowing that when the weather
breaks, the harvest will be of interest to loggers and mills.
Working on frozen ground reduces the formation of ruts and is less damaging to the soil. Photo credit: Turner Logging, LLC
To avoid a poor situation later, anticipate wet soil conditions and have road rock delivered prior to hauling logs. Photo credit: Doug Enyart, Clearwater Forest Consultants LLC