Retroactive comparison of operator-designed and computer-generated skid-trail networks on steep terrain

Marco A. Contreras, David L. Parrott, Jeffrey W. Stringer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Aim of the study: Quantify potential economic benefits of implementing computer-generated skid-trail networks over the tradi-tional operator-designed skid-trail networks on steep terrain ground-based forest operations. Area of study: A 132-ha harvest operation conducted at the University of Kentucky’s Robinson Forest in eastern Kentucky, USA. Materials and methods: We compared computer-generated skid-trail network with an operator-designed network for a 132-ha har-vest. Using equipment mounted GPS data and a digital elevation model (DEM), we identified the original operator-designed skid-trail network. Pre-harvest conditions were replicated by re-contouring terrain slopes over skid-trails to simulate the natural topography and by spatially distributing the harvestable volume based on pre-harvest inventories and timber harvest records. An optimized skid-trail network was designed using these pre-harvest conditions and compared to the original, operator-designed network. Main results: The computer-generated network length was slightly longer than the operator-designed network (53.7 km vs. 51.7 km). This also resulted in a slightly longer average skidding distance (0.71 km vs. 0.66 km) and higher total harvesting costs (5.1 $ ton-1 vs. 4.8 $ ton-1). However, skidding costs of the computer-generated network were slightly lower (4.2 $ ton-1 vs. 4.3 $ ton-1). When comparing only major skid-trails, those with ≥ 20 machine passes, the computer-generated skid-trail network was 28% shorter than the operator network (9.4 km vs. 13.1 km). Research highlights: This assessment offers evidence that computer-generated networks could be used to generate efficient skid-trails, help determine skidding costs, and assess further potential economic and environmental benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereSC01
JournalForest Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, McIntire-Stennis KY009026 under accession 1001477.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 inia.


  • Cost minimization
  • Forest operations
  • Network optimization
  • Soil disturbances
  • Timber harvesting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Soil Science


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