Five years ago, geologist and conservationist Luke Garland started a business with one machine and a dream: to provide an environmentally ...
Five years ago, geologist and conservationist Luke Garland started a business with one machine and a dream: to provide an environmentally friendly contracting service. Today Garland, president of Ecological Land Clearing, based in Macon, GA, specializes in a land clearing method that he believes is changing the face of low-impact vegetation management in a variety of applications.
"Our new land-clearing method is setting a higher standard for low-impact vegetation management," said Garland. "It leaves the land healthy for habitat, agricultural use, pasturing, recreation, and home development."
Garland utilizes an ASV RC-100 compact track loader in his contracting services. The machine's light footprint allows for minimal disturbance to sensitive terrain, allowing it to work in wetlands without creating ruts, or move around storm-damaged areas without causing unnecessary stress in already distressed areas.
Treading Through Wetland Restoration
On one recent Ecological Land Clearing job, the company worked on a stream "mitigation bank" project — a credit process whereby a party gains or loses credits based on environmental impact to wetlands, streams or other bodies of water.
Due to the sensitivity of these waterways, such mitigation is a long, intricate process with stringent requirements. This particular stream had long ago been straightened for agricultural use, and the original wetland and stream had been separated and the stream banks left to erode, depositing excess sediment downstream. The crew's plan was to reroute the existing stream back to its original banks so it could return to its natural flow pattern.
Garland notes that the original stream banks were still evident, however, and that proved invaluable.
"We had the old meandering stream bed to use as a guide and a reference point for most of the stretch," Garland said.
The original banks were overgrown with a thick stand of privet that had grown 50 feet back from the center of the stream bed and invasively taken over the stream bottom. But Garland's machine — fitted with a mulcher — was able to carefully clear the privet without causing substantial ground disturbance.
Making Way For The Excavator
Once the privet was taken care of, Garland used his RC-100 to clear an easily accessible path so an excavator could be brought in to dig the stream's new channel.
"When the channel was dug, we laid a protective jute liner and planted the bed with water-loving vegetation to help stabilize the soil," said Garland. The crew then over-excavated the old channel and filled it with solid plug to prevent the stream from reverting back to its previous artificially straightened course.
After the work was complete, Garland monitored the stream with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which granted a mitigation bank credit to Ecological Land Clearing's contractor.
"It was a great success," Garland says, adding that the client "got what they wanted" and got it "faster than they expected" — and, he adds, it was all accomplished without noticeable disturbance of the area's soft, wet soil.
Tackling Storm Debris Cleanup
Garland puts his low-impact approach to work in other situations too. For example, on Mother's Day 2008, tornadoes struck the Macon, GA, area, displacing many families and destroying a large number of homes. Damage was widespread, resulting in a massive debris cleanup effort — and Garland, who is from the area, was able to aid the cleanup with the help of his RC-100.
Ecological Land Clearing towed its RC-100 to the most devastated area. Because of the machine's low ground pressure of 3.5 psi, Garland was able to complete the cleanup without doing further damage to this already damaged terrain.
Garland also enlisted a local contact who specializes in custom, on-site timber milling to salvage timber he had gathered. To handle the timber, Garland outfitted the RC-100 with a timber grapple attachment.
"The claw proved invaluable for pulling the 20- to 30-inch diameter and 8- to 16-foot-long logs from the wreckage," Garland said. In the end, the team salvaged more than 4,000 feet of usable timber that would otherwise have been wasted.
"The recovered timber was cut by the mill and used to rebuild homes," Garland said.
Dealing With The Stumps
After clearing all the larger debris, Garland then switched to the rotary-style mulching head attachment to grind the stumps.
"What once looked like a battleground almost looks like a park," Garland said. "The residents plan to use the mulch base to plant fruit-bearing trees, berry-producing bushes, and high protein and carbohydrate ground cover to feed native wildlife."
Making a property accessible while making sure native vegetation is able to thrive is a long-standing goal for Ecological Land Clearing. Garland is determined to provide landowners with sustainable property that can be enjoyed by the native wildlife and vegetation, as well as by the property owners, utilizing the right equipment to make such specialized work possible.
"We trust our equipment," he says. "It has opened us up to new job opportunities."
|Kip Lindman is a technical writer who covers a variety of construction-related topics.|