Orwigsburg logging project combines stewardship and revenue

·3 min read

Sep. 22—ORWIGSBURG — A gypsy moth infestation about five years ago left its mark on a stand of trees atop Second Mountain, north of the borough.

The damage inflicted by the moth, a silent gradual killer, was apparent Wednesday morning as loggers thinned out diseased timber on the mountain.

"All this is dead wood," said Jeff Eason, pointing to a pile of rotting logs. "It's only good for firewood."

The Borough of Orwigsburg hired Eason, owner of Woods & Wildlife Forestry Consultants, to remove the dead wood and make way for new growth.

"When you're thinning out an area," said Eason, whose forestry service is based in Dauphin County, "you're removing the dead and dying trees to provide space for the remaining trees to grow."

The impact was visible as patches of sunshine radiated on open spaces where trees once stood, perhaps for the first time in decades.

The canopy of the mature, densely overgrown forest, prohibits sunlight from reaching the mountainside.

A five-member crew began working in the area a week or so ago, and will continue periodically over the next two years on a 200-acre tract on a mountainside above Second Mountain Road.

The area includes part of the borough's watershed, officials said.

The density of a mature forest, Eason said, is about 40 trees per acre. His crew will remove about eight to 12 trees per acre, or around 20% to 30%.

Quinn Frassetta, 28, certified forester with Woods & Wildlife, said the mountainside is essentially a stand of oak.

"We're salvaging the forest," he said. "We're creating open spaces for the younger trees to grow."

Woods & Wildlife has undertaken a similar project at a hunting camp in Potter County.

Logging

Wielding a chainsaw, lumberjack John Smoker cut an open-faced notch in the base of a tall white pine.

A Berks County resident, Smoker explained that he positioned the notch so the tree would fall away from him to its heavy side.

His calculation was on the mark as the tree fell into an open space, as planned.

Large machines called sliders drag felled trees to an open area, where they will be loaded onto an 18-wheel flatbed and transported to Ritchie Logging & Sawmill in Bethel, Berks County.

Hardwoods like oak and poplar, Eason said, will be used in making furniture. Lesser quality timber is used for firewood and in making railroad ties and pallets.

His crew, Eason said, will remove about 600,000 board feet of lumber under the project.

Carl Miller, who's been logging for about 40 years, has gained respect for his predecessors in the 1920s to 1930s.

On his cellphone, he pulled up photos of an era when lumberjacks used hand saws and transported logs on horse-drawn wagons.

"They did by hand what we do with machines," said Miller, who does woodworking in Bernville, Berks County. "I admire what they did back then."

Wise stewardship

The logging operation is somewhat of a windfall for the borough.

At a recent borough council meeting, it was reported that Orwigsburg has received $90,000 in revenue from the operation.

Eventually, Eason said, revenues to the borough could approach $200,000.

Kaitlyn Eason Blosser, Woods & Wildlife marketing manager, said the project is as much about wise stewardship of the land as it is about generating revenue.

"Selective forestation repopulates good hardwoods," she said. "It brings in sun and water and allows yearlings to grow, continuing the cycle of life."

Contact the writer: rdevlin@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6007