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Lower the visual impact of a timber harvest by having your logger use these techniques near your home, pond, and road frontage.

Harvesting trees on your property changes how your woods look. You may notice openings where trees were cut. You might also see tree tops and limbs that loggers left behind. If you’re concerned about how your woods will look from a viewing spot like your home or a road, a buffer can help.


Harvesting can change the way your woods looks, especially more intense cuts. This shelterwood harvest is designed to start a new generation of trees growing by letting more light reach the forest floor. To do that, though, it has to open up the forest canopy. Leaving a buffer between logging and a common vantage point, like a home or cabin, can let you harvest timber without destroying your view.


  1. Decide What Kind Of Buffer You Want.

    You have a lot of options when it comes to a buffer. At the high end, you can prohibit any logging within a certain distance from your house, pond, or other viewing spot. A “no-cut zone” will provide the strongest visual separation between you and logging.

    While a no-cut zone works well, it also means that you’re losing income. Fortunately, you may not need a no-cut zone to provide visual protection. Often just reducing the number of trees cut in the buffer will have a similar effect. You might only remove smaller trees from the buffer to limit the number of big openings. Alternately, you might allow cutting but limit the use of heavy machinery.


    Buffers don’t have to be no-cut zones. Less intense harvesting, like the logging shown here (note the stump on the left side of the photo), allows a landowner to receive a little income while maintaining a visual screen.

    Beyond different cutting intensities, you can request that your logger lop (cut) fallen tree tops so they don’t stick as high off the ground. Many loggers lop tops to around 4 feet high. A lower height will reduce the visual impact. Keep in mind that a lower height also means more work for the logger, which in turn means it will cost you more. Limit low lopping heights only to your most important high visibility areas.

    CAUTION! Some landowners don’t want to see any tree tops and will have their logger remove them. This approach is not recommended. Fallen tops provide important nutrients to the soil when they decompose. Moving tops can also damage remaining trees by scraping against them.


    Lopping, or cutting, tops left behind after harvesting is one way to reduce a harvest’s visual impact. Unlopped tops (top photo) are harmless to the forest, but they may create an aesthetic concern. Completely removing tops (middle image) creates a parklike appearance, but it harms the woods by removing valuable nutrients and ground cover for seedlings and wildlife. Where aesthetics are a concern, lopping tops to 4 feet (bottom) can lower the visual impact while keeping nutrients and ground cover intact.

  2. Decide How Wide You Want your Buffer to Be.

    The wider your buffer, the less likely you are to see cutting deeper in the woods. Wider buffers cost more, though, so don’t make the buffer wider than it has to be. If your harvest is light, 100 feet will usually be enough to provide a visual barrier. In heavier cuts, you may want to widen the buffer to 200 feet or more. You might also use wider buffers near high-visibility locations (such as near your home) and narrower buffers in areas that aren’t as commonly visited. Discuss your wishes with your forester to determine what buffer will work best for your situation.

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    This 3-acre patch cut took place right next to a town road. To reduce the visual impact, the logger left a 60-foot-wide uncut strip between the road and the harvest. A narrower buffer worked here because people would be driving by, not stopping to examine the view.

  3. Mark Your Buffer's Location in the Field.

    Your logger needs to know where any buffers start and end to carry out the work you want done. You or your forester should clearly mark the buffer in the woods. You can do this by tying strips of flagging to trees at eye level. Alternately, you can paint an eye-level mark on tree trunks. If painting, use tree marking paint from a forestry supply outfit to ensure it remains visible throughout logging.


    A close-up of a buffer’s edge after a harvest. The area to the left was harvested; the area to the right was left uncut as a buffer. Note the use of orange paint on the trees that marked the buffer’s edge.

  4. Include Your Buffer in Your Timber Sale Contract.

    Good working relationships with your forester and logger are critical to getting what you want out of any logging job. Communicate your expectations and document the needed work in a timber sale contract.

    Example timber harvest contract language for a buffer:

    “The logger will not cut trees in the designated 150’ buffer area (flagged in orange flagging) next to the main road (see harvest map).”

    “The logger will avoid equipment operation in the red painted areas within 100’ of the pond (see harvest map for location).”

    “The logger will lop all tops to less than 2’ in height throughout the 100’ buffer area between the house and woods (see harvest map). The buffer area is flagged in fluorescent green flagging.”


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