Steep ground felling skills ensure river protection

The Forestry and Land Scotland team behind the steep ground felling along the Loch Ness-side A82 is keeping their hand in as the programme is adjusted after COVID-19 lockdown.

No felling will take place beside the A82 this year because time will now be given over to catching up on the design and installation of the safety fences needed to keep road users safe in the unlikely event of any mishap.

But the felling team, led by main contractor Callum Duffy, has moved to a site at Wades bridge, Loch Duich where, following all the SG and NHS guidelines for keeping safe, they are dealing with some enormous trees that are long overdue for felling.

Keith Black, FLS Steep Ground Harvesting programme manager, said;

“Many of the  trees on this site are very mature – they’re around 90 years old, over 40 metres high (130 feet) and weigh in excess of 10 tonnes.

“They are so big that they are now at risk of being blown over in a storm – which could have disastrous consequences for the river at the bottom of the slope and for habitats and wildlife further downstream. So we need to bring them down now – safely – before that happens.

“Felling trees of this size on a steep slope runs the risk of them sliding down the hill when they are felled, so protecting that watercourse is a top priority.

“To do this, one or two trees need to be felled to lie across the slope to act as a barrier that will stop any trees felled higher up the slope, if they should begin to slide.

“Getting that done safely, correctly and effectively – and then continuing to clear the other trees from the site – is a hugely skilful job for one man and chainsaw. The team has done it exceptionally well.”

The trees will then be lifted by an aerial ropeway known as a skyline, so they are clear of the river and “flown” to the forest roadside, where they will be processed into logs and wood for chipboard to be supplied to local mills in Scotland.

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