Natascia Magagnotti, Luigi Pari & Raffaele Spinelli
In an attempt to perpetuate traditional forest management, the authors tested a new compact tractor designed to replace pack mules when harvesting firewood from Mediterranean coppice stands. The new machine was capable of replacing a standard eight-mule team, and small enough to use the same infrastructure. The main characteristics of the tractor were its narrow width, a shifting center of gravity and a capacity to unitize loads for more efficient handling. The tests showed that the new tractor can outperform an equivalent mule team under the same working conditions, doing the job without incurring a higher cost. Installing a remote control can enhance operator safety, and bring it to the same good levels achieved with animal extraction. Even if the new machine can fill the technical role of pack mules, it certainly cannot reflect the same cultural and historical value. This research was never spurred by the desire to replace draught animals, but rather by their rapidly declining numbers, and was undertaken with the purpose of preserving traditional coppice management. There is a cultural and ethical obligation to preserve animal logging, which can partly be obtained through optimized deployment, so as to increase animal logger revenues and provide them with a further motivation to stay in business.
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