One of the innovations which has hit the forestry business is the 'Forwarder'. It is variation of the skidder and comes to us from Finland, Norway and Sweden where it is very popular. The forwarder is matched with a 'Cut to Length' or CTL forest management technology.
Using this approach, logs are cut to length in the woods and then hauled to a landing for reloading on trucks for shipment to the mill or processing facility. This harvesting method works best with smaller trees which are often a pulpwood operation. Premium sawlogs are usually cut in longer lengths and moved to market in 32-40' or longer lengths. It is Not that they are ultimately sawed in 40' foot lumber, but the longer lengths give the mill more flexibility in selecting lumber lengths as numbers in the 32-40 foot range make a number of different combinations of 8-10 and 12 foot lengths depending on what the sawmill has a need for at the moment. Once the log is bucked this flexibility is lost. Also Bucking errors can be very costly and the general thinking is that in high value wood, they can be reduced if the bucking decisions are delayed as long as possible.
The Fabtek shown here is built in the US mostly out of John Deere Skidder parts. >TimberJack , Volvo, Sisu-Valmet, Nokka Forest Machines and others also make forwarders. By hauling the log out of the woods, the ground disruption incidental to dragging it out of the woods is avoided, but additional compaction and wheel action on the ground is substituted. Where there are many smaller pieces the forwarder will require fewer trips and is a good deal because you can get a load for each trip which is hard to accomplish with a skidder as they can usually only successfully hand a few pieces no matter how small they are. Forwarders are also obviously far more limited in their usefulness in difficult terrain simply because they are bigger and longer.
Forwarders are often used in conjunction with other mechanized harvesting equipment such as single grip harvesters. Mechanized harvesting has come a long ways but hand falling of the larger trees is still the rule. It is neither practical nor feasible to get a machine in the woods large enough to 'pick' a very large tree, but with the smaller trees mechanized harvesting can be very efficient.