Logger prefers hauling wood with horse power

August 04, 1993|By Ellen Lyon | Ellen Lyon,Hagerstown Herald-Mail

SMITHSBURG -- When Ben Clopper decided to thin the woods behind his Smithsburg orchard, he chose an old-fashioned work crew to do it.

But Tom, Rusty, Rambo and Nell don't exactly haul wood for peanuts. They do it for apples and carrots.

These four hefty draft horses belong to Raymond Morgan of R. H. Morgan Lumber Co. in Orbisonia, Pa. They haul downed trees with muscle and hoofs, something many of Mr. Morgan's customers prefer to the thick tires of mechanical skidders. And now, some experts say, this traditional logging method makes good environmental and aesthetic sense.

"Mr. Clopper was very much concerned about what the woodland would look like when we're done," said Harry Staley, a professional forester Mr. Clopper called in to consult on the project.

"We've done traditional logging, and the problem there is there is so much waste," Mr. Clopper said. "They just run over everything.

"We're always concerned in the orchard business about erosion, and the next generation is important."

Washington County Soil Conservation District Manager Elmer Weibley said mechanical equipment can disturb the forest floor, which can lead to erosion.

But once the horses are through it, it will be hard to tell they were there, Mr. Staley said.

"Very, very little damage is done doing it this way," he said.

The crew of four men and horses have been at work about a week on the 20 acres that Mr. Clopper selected for thinning.

The horses follow one another down a narrow trail, playfully nudging each other along as they effortlessly pull 16-foot logs to a loading area on the edge of the orchard.

"It's a little bit of a romantic thing to bring the horses in," Mr. Clopper said.

Mechanical skidders need a path 12 feet to 15 feet wide to maneuver, Mr. Staley said. And the large mechanical equipment can damage trees not slated for removal.

Horse-drawn hauling takes longer. A skidder can remove 6,000 to 7,000 board feet of timber in a day, he said. Each horse hauls only about 1,500 board feet.

"I'm not implying all logging in Maryland should be done with horses," Mr. Staley said.

Not all woodland is easily accessible to horses. Long, uphill skids are difficult for the horses to negotiate, and rocky ground is treacherous.

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