How to Clear Land Without Breaking the Bank
Whether you’re a hunter looking to clear a few shooting lanes, a landowner needing to create a firebreak, or just taking care of a downed tree, owning a piece of land requires continual maintenance. This kind of work always involves manual labor and a good pair of leather gloves; however, the right tools and equipment will make the workload more manageable, increase your productivity, and allow you to clear land without breaking the bank.
Most landowners can manage a smaller parcel with various hand and power tools and a small tractor, but taking the time to choose the right tools and equipment can save you money in the long run. However, more significant properties often require detailed planning, larger specialized equipment, and sometimes even a permit before serious clearing can begin.
Taking the time to discuss your property issues and long-term goals with fellow landowners or your local state forestry agent can lead to realistic expectations and maybe good contact information for trusted resources to help carry out those plans.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the best way to clear land and best power tools available to assist landowners in maintaining their property. We’ll also look at some of the best tractor attachments to tackle your larger projects. Finally, we’re going to look at the benefits of hiring someone with the expertise and equipment to tackle the challenges involved in developing roads, creating clearings, and managing the timber on your property. Sometimes, a selective timber harvest is a good starting point in achieving your larger management goals.
Going with hand tools can be the cheapest way to clear land. Your local Sunsouth dealer carries an impressive selection of Stihl products for clearing land by hand. They have both gas and electric options for addressing everything from weeds to felling your largest timber.
- Chain saws- Newer battery technology has created another option for the urban landowner. Some models rival their gas competition in performance and offer a level of convenience and noise reduction that many homeowners enjoy. Most Stihl chainsaws sold in the US are put together in Virginia. They have a long history amongst professional loggers and now offer over 30 gas and electric models.
- Battery- An excellent choice for a smaller trim saw is the MSA 200 C-B. It is a lightweight, 36 volts saw with a run-time approaching one hour and a ten-year battery life. It’s the perfect choice for some quiet, early-morning cutting if you have neighbors within earshot.
- Gas -A smaller, lightweight saw like the Stihl MS 194T is around 7 pounds, can use cutting bars from 12-16″, and is perfect for smaller trees or limbs. For cutting bigger trees, the MS 261 made by Stihl can use a cutting bar from 16-20″ and comes in around 10 pounds.
- Clearing Saw- For hard-to-reach areas, a bladed trimmer can easily cut brush and small saplings up to 4″. Stihl carries a line of dedicated saws from 2-4 hp that can quickly clear brush and saplings.
Tractors come in various sizes, and finding the right-sized tractor is determined by the acreage to be maintained and what attachments are needed. Your local Sunsouth dealer can be a great starting point as you consider your options for the best equipment to clear land.
- Small Compact- The John Deere 2038R is a 36 hp model, and with the right attachments, it can maintain 5-15 acres. With 4-wheel drive, hydrostatic transmission, and 36 hp, it’s an excellent choice and currently qualifies for special financing.
- Full-Size Compact– The 50hp 5045E model by John Deere delivers the power to maintain more substantial properties of 20 acres or more and can handle the larger accessories.
- Attachments- Grass and brush mowers, discs, planters, augers, blades, backhoes, front-end loaders, mulchers, and sprayers, to name a few. A conversation with your local Sunsouth dealer can help you determine the most suitable options for your situation.
From 4,000 lbs to around 10,000lbs, they have attachments to do all but the largest of land clearing projects. Think of this option as a cross between a small dozer and tractor. This agile machine offers a mulching attachment that can accomplish the work of several machines at once. The mulcher can turn brush, saplings, and stumps into a fine mulch in short order. It can clear underbrush or even create openings for planting. The John Deere, 333G with a MINIFORSTcl 175 mulcher on the front, can remove any underbrush and small trees up to eight inches to create a beneficial layer of mulch in short order.
Many landowners prefer to rent, borrow, or even buy a small dozer if they have significant clearings to establish or an extensive network of roads or firebreaks to maintain. The 450K Dozer by John Deere is their smallest model with 80 hp and a width of about seven feet. This type of equipment can maintain roads, create firebreaks, clearings, and fields with ease.
Contracting with a reputable logger to harvest timber on your property can often achieve a large part of your management goals while putting money in your pocket. However, before hiring someone to cut your trees, there are few points to consider.
- Always get references from forestry professionals and timberland owners – A logging business is like any other. They earn their reputation for either good or poor work performance. Professional foresters often work with a logging business and can often give valuable insight into the quality of work a company has done in the past. Likewise, talking to landowners can lead to recommendations about which companies do a good job. Also, if possible, visit one or more of a logging company’s recent job sites. A firsthand perspective on the quality of work a logger does can influence your hiring decision.
- Ask about their qualifications: Many state agencies do not require logger certification/qualifications; however, many offer continuing education classes and certification programs. A certified or trained logging company is recommended.
- Require insurance. Ask for verification of insurance. If a logger is uninsured, a landowner can be held liable for any incident during the logging operation on your property.
- Sign a contract – A contract outlining every detail of the harvest will protect you from any surprises. An agreement that clearly defines specific areas and trees to cut, those to be left, cleanup details, road building and maintenance, the time frame, and payment specifics will help avoid headaches.
Hiring a Specialist
I spoke with Brian Sheppard of Brush Clearing Services (BCS) about how to clear land. His company has offices in Georgia and Arkansas and he offers his expertise and services throughout the South—from Georgia to Texas. BCS provides various forestry services to small and large landowners and can help create short- and long-term goals for any property.
They have dozer-mounted mulchers and other specialized equipment that can create a path nearly 10′ wide with each pass to clear underbrush and quickly develop strategic openings or firebreaks.
“Frequently, we recommend a three-step process to achieve the desired results for a property. Initially, when evaluating a parcel, we look at tree density, species, the amount and types of underbrush, and the number of openings when developing a plan,” Brian said.
A comprehensive plan can often include:
- Selective timber harvest
- Using industrial mulching equipment to thin undergrowth
- Follow Up with targeted herbicide applications
The benefits of the BCS clearing techniques:
- No burning
- No stumps
- No debris hauling
- No soil disturbance
Brian explained that BCS mulching equipment creates a ground-friendly layer of heavy mulch, which significantly increases soil water retention. The BCS equipment can address any clearing project, including sensitive tasks such as wetlands restoration or reducing hazardous fuel loads on a property.
Any activity that involves a saw requires serious, dedicated safety equipment. DO NOT attempt to crank up any saw or brush cutter without first making sure the area is clear of obstacles and bystanders. An investment in the proper cut-resistant Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) will help avoid an unexpected visit to the emergency room. Your local Sunsouth dealer carries a complete line of professional safety equipment.
How To Clear Land – Final Thoughts
If you’re the hands-on type that loves the outdoors, choosing the right equipment to manage your property can save both time and money. There are numerous options for how to clear land, and the right tools can make the task easier and even enjoyable.
Whether your property has wetlands or hills, consists of a few acres or hundreds, consulting with a company such as BCS can help any landowner develop a plan to achieve their forest management goals. So, give Brian a call, or head to your nearest Sunsouth dealer to discuss your property needs and discover the best options for your situation.