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The Brush Cutter

by Esther Benson, Fire Mitigation and Education Specialist, BLM Cedar City Field Office
See below for a product demonstration video.

In October 2002, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Utah Fuels Program, purchased an environmental brush cutter. Working out of the Cedar City Field Office, the machine is being used to reduce hazardous fuels where communities meet or intermingle with wildland fuels. Demonstration of its fuel modification and wildlife habitat improvement capabilities is an important part of the program.

brush cutter

The machine can reduce selected trees and shrubs quickly to ground level while minimizing root disturbance. The brush cutter is designed to save time and energy by cutting and treating vegetation in a single operation. The shredded material is rapidly biodegradable mulch that can help reduce erosion and provide soil nutrients and fertility. Shrubs that are more desired on the landscape, such as those considered beneficial for mule deer winter range, can remain untouched.

In 2002, the BLM brush cutter completed the 700-acre Joel Springs project along State Road 56, 20 miles west of Cedar City. This project took approximately three and a half months. The project demonstrates a shaded fuel-break in pinyon-juniper woodlands. A shaded fuel-break is where trees are thinned and pruned to reduce fire hazard. The BLM machine is currently working on the Arizona Strip in ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper habitats.

Utility companies, municipalities, foresters, agricultural producers and the military presently use environmental brush cutters across the country to clear land, reduce slash, and thin vegetation. With a purchase price of $239,000, the cost of the tractor may seem high from a taxpayer’s perspective, but keep in mind that is only one-quarter of the daily cost of a fire management team.

Brush Cutter Highlights

  • The machine reduces wood quickly and safely by cutting it to ground level.
  • Minimizes disturbance to soil and root material.
  • Shredded material biodegrades rapidly.
  • Erosion is greatly reduced.
  • Less traffic on the ground results in less compaction (everything is done in one operation).
  • Eliminates secondary handling (piling and burning slash).
  • Able to treat about 30 acres a day in pinyon-juniper.
  • Used across the nation to clear land, and utility rights-of-way, and create fire breaks.

brush cutter head

Environmental Brush Cutter Specifications

  • Uses a rotary drum with 48 carbide cutting teeth—300-500 work hours per tooth
  • Weight: 42,500 pounds
  • Horse Power: 260 at 2200 RMP
  • Machine Dimensions: 10 ft wide x 20 ft long

Brush Cutter Demonstration