A Timber Harvest Plan (THP) is a document that details the planned logging operations and the measures that will be taken to minimize the environmental impacts of these operations. In many regions of the world, a logging plan is required before logging can proceed, and these documents are open for public comment before being approved. The public comment period allows interested individuals to protest the logging plan before it is finalized, and may result in the plan being blocked or substantial changes to the plan.
A wood harvest plan includes the details of a planned felling operation.
Logging is a delicate matter and also a very profitable venture. In many nations, wood costs are constantly rising, due to the decline in available wood and the increasing demand for forest products. The awareness of wood as a vital economic resource has led to the desire to protect it as an ecological resource, as trees are a valuable part of the natural environment. In addition to simply looking beautiful, trees help protect watersheds from erosion and provide habitat for various animals. Trees also condition the soil and remove carbon dioxide from the air.
Watershed erosion is a concern of timber harvest planners.
Centuries of logging around the world have dramatically changed the natural environment. Europe, for example, was once covered by forests, and only a fraction of these trees remain today. So did North America, which was a heavily forested forbidden land when the first explorers reached it. The long-term impacts of logging on the natural environment began to be noticed in the early 18th century, but serious forest management did not begin in most regions until the 20th century.
The introduction of the timber harvest plan had a major impact on the timber industry. Previously, landowners could cut down as many trees as they wanted on their land, without thinking about the long-term impact and effects on neighboring landowners. A timber harvest plan forces a logging company or property owners to think about the environmental impacts of logging and to provide a clear list of ways to mitigate those impacts. The document includes a projection of which trees will be cut down and when, how and where access roads will be cut and which waterways may be impacted.
A licensed professional forester cooperates in drawing up and submitting a logging plan. The forestry engineer may turn to other professionals, such as a specialist who focuses on the animal species in the area, to ensure that the logging plan is complete and carefully crafted. The forestry engineer is also responsible for obtaining accurate survey information about where the property in question begins and ends, and he will mark selected trees in the area for inspection. Once the forester has signed the document and the public comment period is over, it will be approved or denied by a regional forestry department.
Environmental activists tend to keep an eye on pending logging plans in their region so they are aware of logging in potentially controversial locations. Landowners in heavily forested regions are also interested, as they may be adversely affected by logging in their area. If approved, registration operations usually begin onsite within a year.