• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation

Forest harvests were completed adjacent stands during winter 2013-2014 and summer 2014 to determine how shorter winter logging seasons may affect forest operations.

Warmer, shorter winters are reducing the winter logging season, and over time, it is likely that more logging will need to occur in the summer under less favorable conditions. The Vermont Land Trust harvested one area in summer to better understand how warmer winter conditions could affect logging operations and costs.

Project Area

Map of Burnt/Calavale tract (5,493 acres)
The Vermont Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy created the Atlas Timberlands Partnership in 1997, which conserved more than 25,000 acres of forestland in northern Vermont. These lands provided an opportunity for the partnership to explore the challenges associated with managing large tracts of timberland while balancing the ecological, economic and social values associated with the management choices.

After this project was implemented, The Nature Conservancy acquired sole ownership of this tract as part of the Burnt Mountain project. This area is now managed under a "forever wild" conservation easement. This adaptation demonstration page summarizes the forest management goals and actions that were in place prior to this change in land ownership and protection status.

Management Goals

Management goals on the property included: conserving water quality and soil productivity, increasing the quality of the timber resource, providing diverse habitats, and providing recreational opportunities.

Climate Change Impacts

Some of the greatest potential impacts on the property are related to altered hydrologic conditions. In the future, is it likely that precipitation will increase in northern Vermont, particularly in the fall, winter, and spring. Extreme precipitation events are also expected to occur more frequently. These changes can results in increased flash flooding, soil erosion, and road washouts.

Shorter, warmer winters mean that there is less time when optimal conditions for winter harvest exist. Frozen conditions makes it easier to operate large equipment and protect forest soils.

Adaptation Actions

As part of this project, the managers of the project area considered the potential effects of climate change on a block of forestland totaling four hundred acres. Many of the current management activities that were planned for this parcel and also across the entire tract were expected to increase forest resilience to climate change. For example, forest management activities can foster a diversity of tree species and forest habitats, which can help reduce the risks associated with a species declining as conditions change. Additionally, the relative large size of this property and its adjacency to many other large tracts of forest land created a high degree of landscape connectivity, which can reduce ecosystem vulnerability and allow for communities to adapt across the landscape.

Reduced operability for winter logging was a major concern on this property while it was under active management, and it remains so more broadly across the region. Land managers identified a forest stand that would typically be considered “winter ground” because of steep slopes and groundwater seeps. These features make it substantially more expensive to implement harvests in the summer and fall months because more robust roads, water crossings (culverts, bridges, etc.) and other infrastructure are needed to reduce the risk of damage to soils, water, and the residual forest. Through this project, the forest managers identified needed modifications for road and drainage infrastructure that would make it possible to conduct a summer harvest and reduce the potential for negative impacts from logging. Costs, operational difficulties, and impacts were recorded.

The Adaptation Workbook was used to identify the adaptation actions for this project, which included:

Northern hardwoods
Implement forest management practices to increase species and structural diversity in northern hardwoods.
Retain spruce, white pine and black cherry; Try to discourage beech
Use summer harvesting (as opposed to winter) to promote yellow birch
Consider increasing the area of patches cut in even-aged transitional stands
Increase the retention of large course woody debris by leaving more material in the tops of cut trees and marking more cut-to-leave trees
Harvest operations
Reduce site impacts by using tracked equipment as much as possible, especially on summer ground.
Minimize disturbance to sensitive areas, such as seeps or enriched areas, during harvest
Explore the feasibility of expanding summer harvest operations
Prioritize most likely areas that could support a summer harvest given ground conditions and potential costs


One of the major efforts of this project was to evaluate the effectiveness of conducting a summer harvest. Sites were visited before, during, and after harvest operations to ensure that appropriate precautions were taken to avoid damage to the residual stand and to soil and water resources. The financial expenses associated with the timber harvest were also tracked in order to better understand the costs associated with the new practices. The forest managers estimated that harvesting during the summer season increased the costs by $19,000 compared to winter, with much of the additional expense related to the purchase and installation of a portable skidder bridge and additional labor needed for skid road construction and installation of water-bars on woods roads.

Project Documents


Upland hardwoods

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