The fine birches of Hartola

Koskitukki's logger Taito Laine.

Koskitukki's logger Taito Laine.

Koskitukki harvested in the estate of Risto Lähde in Hartola, southern Finland, in October 2010. One of the logging sites was a local landmark known by villagers as the “fine birch grove”.

“When giving instructions, people often tell their visitors to take a right turn at the fine birch stand,” says forest owner Risto Lähde.

Risto estimates that the treasured trees are his contemporaries – in other words, 63 years of age. The silver birch stand is likely to have naturally regenerated on an old slash-and-burn site. Risto recalls having cut roughly four-metre-long fishing poles from the half-a-hectare site on his way to the lake around 55 years ago.

“The stand has undergone two proper forestry operations prior to 2010: a clearing for firewood around 1965 and a thinning in the late 1980s. The consumption of fishing rods was probably not enough to count as sapling care, so Risto and I estimate that the stand has lost around 10 per cent of its annual growth due to drawn out sapling care and thinnings,” says Procurement Supervisor Tomi Marttinen from Koskitukki.

Fine spruces to replace the birches

Since the thinning, spruce saplings started to emerge naturally from under the birches, and the young stand was good enough to warrant saving it during the harvest. The harvest involved Koskitukki’s logger Taito Laine who removed approximately 50 per cent of the birch trunks by selection thinning. The rest of the birches overcasting the spruces will be harvested in 5 to 10 years.

“The birches are already quite big, the tallest reaching a height of 28 metres and a chest-height diameter of 40 centimetres. The sawtimber yield from the birches was good, and butt logs fit for veneer production amounted to nearly 30 per cent of the total volume, even though the best trunks were left standing to grow even more,” says Marttinen.

Risto wonders if the locals will adjust their coordinates after the next felling, when the birches will have been cut and there is a young, fast-growing spruce stand instead.

“It will be interesting to see if people still talk about the ‘fine birches’ or perhaps stately spruces,” ponders Risto, who retired from a job in silviculture with the regional Forestry Centre a couple of years ago.