Horse logging limits damage to forests

April 8, 1996 | Web posted at: 12:30 a.m. EDT
From Correspondent Natalie Pawelski

DILLARD, Georgia (CNN) — A couple thousand pounds’ worth of horse pulling tons of wood from the forest is an old way of working. But the method is helping meet today’s need for wood — and keeping the land in good shape for tomorrow.

“I just like the way the woods look when we leave,” says horse logger David Matherson. “In a lot of cases we’ve logged and went in a place and people never knew we was there.”

In the old days, horses were part of almost every logging operation. Now, machines do the work — and logging machinery can take a heavy toll on the land.

“The damage from logging the mountains doesn’t come from cutting the trees,” says consulting forester Paul Carlson. “It comes from extracting the logs from the woods.

Horse logging may be a new concept for a lot of landowners. But Jason Rutledge learned the mountain tradition from his grandfather while growing up in Virginia.

The horses, Rutledge says, operate on “farm grown fuel — hay and grain — (and) they replace themselves.”

“You’ve never found a baby tractor in the barn the next morning,” he says. “And they produce fertilizer … not carbon monoxide and pollution.”

Horses do have a downside — they kick. That’s why David Matherson’s jaw is wired shut. It’s healing after a run-in with his big Percheron, Tom.

“It didn’t change my outlook on the horse logging,” he says, “but it did change my outlook on the horse.”

When a storm blew down dozens of trees on a hillside in north Georgia, the Chattooga Watershed Coalition brought in the horse loggers.

“We’re hoping to educate the community that there is an alternative to taking heavy machinery into the woods,” says the Coalition’s Nicole Hayler.

Horses cost less than big logging machines, and that can make it economically easier for landowners to cut just a few trees at a time.

Nobody expects animal-powered logging to replace the conventional kind. But, in places where preserving the landscape is important, horse loggers can pull their weight.

Link: CNN: Horse logging limits damage to forests

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