Conservation Group Tests Forest Thinning Computer Program

May 26, 2014

(photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy)
Timber harvesting machine operator interacts with the GPS based program.

A conservation group in Arizona is developing a computer program to make forest-thinning efforts more efficient and cost effective. It’s being tested on private land near Flagstaff.  

The program is a collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service, a software developer and a private timber harvesting company. It works primarily through a GPS system loaded into a tablet that’s been installed in a timber harvesting machine.

Neil Chapman, a spokesman for The Nature Conservancy, said the program will provide the timber company a detailed outlook of the work area and the thinning prescription. He says it will also track a thinning project’s progress, tree by tree.

And so we can find out very quickly if we’re meeting the objectives of the prescriptions and if we are we can reinforce that we’re doing a good job," he said. "If we’re not meeting the objectives we’ll know very quickly and we can adapt very quickly.”

Testing on the product began last summer. There’s no word on when the official launch is expected.