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Conservation Group Tests Forest Thinning Computer Program

Timber harvesting machine operator interacts with the GPS based program.
(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.

Carrie Jung Senior Field Correspondent, Education Desk Carrie Jung began her public radio career in Albuquerque, N.M., where she fell in love with the diverse cultural scene and unique political environment of the Southwest. Jung has been heard on KJZZ since 2013 when she served as a regular contributor to the Fronteras Desk from KUNM Albuquerque. She covered several major stories there including New Mexico's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and Albuquerque's failed voter initiative to ban late-term abortions. Jung has also contributed stories about environmental and Native American issues to NPR's Morning Edition, PRI's The World, Al Jazeera America, WNYC's The Takeaway, and National Native News. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in marketing, both from Clemson University. When Jung isn't producing content for KJZZ she can usually be found buried beneath mounds of fabric and quilting supplies. She recently co-authored a book, "Sweet And Simple Sewing," with her mother and sister, who are fabric designers.