B.C.’s Lincoln DouglasGetting back into logging

Having built a successful gravel business, B.C.’s Lincoln Douglas decided to re-enter logging six years ago, doing work in southwestern B.C., and is now looking to get into the value-added sector with a small sawmilling operation.

By Paul MacDonald

B.C. logging contractor Lincoln Douglas is interested in horse power on a couple of fronts.

Having set up a successful sand/gravel and construction operation, Lincoln Douglas returned to logging six years ago, in B.C.’s Fraser Valley. It was like coming full circle for Douglas, since he worked for his father’s logging operation when he was a teenager.

Douglas used to be a professional chuckwagon racer with the World Professional Chuckwagon Association—and has competed in the races in the Calgary Stampede and the Ponoka Stampede, among many others. These days he’s more focused on horse races, than being in the race himself, and has some horses that race at the track in Vancouver, and down south in the U.S.

Douglas is also interested, too, in equipment horsepower, for his gravel business, and in recent years, for his logging business.

For Douglas, returning to logging six years ago was a bit like coming full circle.

When he was a teenager, he worked for his father’s logging operation in the Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver, skidding logs with an arch-equipped Cat D7.

In between his logging years in the 1980s and setting up the gravel operation, Douglas was involved in construction—
including working on the massive Coquihalla Highway project, which connects Vancouver to the B.C. Interior—and pipeline work throughout B.C.

“Working on the Coquihalla was great experience—I learned a lot. We were doing everything from clearing to final grading,” he says.

In 1997, Lincoln and his sister, Lisa, set up a sand/gravel and construction operation. Lincoln then carried on to form K&L Contracting, in the community of Rosedale, in the Fraser Valley.

Douglas, who is a past chief of the Cheam First Nation in the Fraser Valley, comes from a long line of leaders and businessman. His father and grandfather were both chiefs of Cheam, and successful business owners. This solid background has been a major contributing factor to the success of the gravel and logging businesses, he feels.

In fact, K&L Contracting and associated company, Links Contracting, won a Business of the Year award last year at the BC Aboriginal Business Awards. The companies are members of the Truck Loggers Association of B.C., the major association for coastal logging contractors.

B.C.’s Lincoln DouglasLincoln Douglas’ gravel and logging operations are heavy on the Cat side, but not exclusively so—the gravel side includes Volvo A25C rock trucks (right).

Their equipment line-up in the woods includes two Cat 325 log loaders, one a butt ‘n top and the other a power clam with an outrigger, a Cat 325 roadbuilder, with a power clam and bucket, and a 545 skidder.

Douglas is now looking at the value added business and may soon be involved in sawmilling.

“We’re looking at working with the band to pick up some sawmilling equipment,” he says. “We could get better value for the wood we harvest if we were to mill it, so we’re exploring that right now. I don’t think we’re getting the maximum value for the wood that goes into the domestic market, the wood that does not go into export sales.” A small sawmilling operation, he notes, would also create employment for band members.

There is a strong family connection to the Cheam Band, and helping it wherever he can. “I was on council for six years, and chief for four years,” says Douglas. “I saw the challenges and problems in our community.”

And some of those problems can be addressed with band businesses, and employment. “I believe what my father taught me—that we need to be self sustaining,” says Douglas.

And that includes being involved in logging, and perhaps even pipelines, he says.

“I talk a lot with band members about the importance of maintaining First Nations culture—but we all still drive cars that use gas and live in houses heated with natural gas. If you are going to fight pipelines, you need to think about that.

“I know that view might be controversial. But I rely on business, and so do the people who work for me. We need business to create sustainable First Nations communities.”

The logging equipment Douglas is working with these days is a far cry from the Cat D7 and other iron he worked with in the 1980s. “My Dad was into high lead logging, back when they were still using spar trees.” Douglas recalls buying timber in his late teens, and renting equipment from his father to do the logging.

Getting back into logging was a matter of seizing a business opportunity, he notes. Working with the Cheam band and two other First Nations bands, K&L Contracting set up a joint venture and were a prime contractor on BC Hydro’s Interior to Lower Mainland (ILM) transmission project. The 247 kilometre, 500-kilovolt ILM power line stretches from Merritt to Coquitlam, near Vancouver.

“The project involved a lot of clearing of right of way,” explains Douglas. “And the bands did not have much logging gear, so I thought this was a good opportunity to jump back into logging a little bit.”

Around the same time, the Cheam band signed an agreement with the provincial government for timber rights, creating some 60,000 cubic metres to harvest.

“I helped the band get back into logging, and go after the wood,” he says.

“I ended up buying a bunch of equipment to work on the BC Hydro project and worked with the band in partnership on its logging,” says Douglas. “We went at it pretty hard—at one point, we had four cable towers, and lots of ground based equipment. We did some roadbuilding, and culvert and bridge installs for BC Hydro, as well.”

Earlier this year, K&L Contracting finished up some logging work for Aspen Planers, in their Lillooet Division, and is looking to do some more work for the Merritt, B.C.-based sawmill. At this point, they have one tower and in addition to doing work for Cheam, it’s also hired out, recently doing some work for Peters Contracting, a member of Seabird Island First Nation, along with some of the K&L ground equipment.

“We were able to help them out with some of their yarding work with the tower, and some of their loading and ground work with our other equipment, around Boston Bar.”

Also coming up is some work in blowdown areas for the Cheam band, and BC Hydro, and some additional logging for the band, pending the signing of another agreement.

“If all this comes together, we’ll have quite a bit to log,” says Douglas. “We don’t know how much of it is cable—a lot of the blowdown is not cable work.”

Being down to one tower these days—a Madill 071, bought used from the B.C. Interior—is fine with Douglas, as he says the tower work can be tough going. “The tower work has probably cost us more than it’s gained us at some points. When we were using it on the power line clearing for BC Hydro, that was probably when we were able to use it most effectively.”

B.C.’s Lincoln DouglasEach tower logging operation is different, and it takes a while for the crew to get up to speed, and get some decent production numbers, he says. But in the right situation, “it can be the perfect piece of equipment”.

When it comes to logging equipment, and equipment around the gravel operation, the emphasis is on Cat equipment, from B.C. Cat dealer, Finning. Their equipment line-up includes two Cat 325 log loaders, one a butt ‘n top and the other a power clam with an outrigger, a Cat 325 roadbuilder, with a power clam and bucket, and a 545 skidder. They are looking to add to that with two more skidders, which will likely be Cats.

“The Cat skidders are a little stronger than other equipment, they get up the hills better. The Cat skidders have a different weight balance and do better—some of the other skidders will stand right up on their back wheels, going up some of the hills we have.”

In general, Douglas likes Cat equipment, and that it can stand up to tough working conditions, because of how the equipment is built.

“When I looked at the log loaders and roadbuilders, and looked at how thick the steel is, the steel on the Cat equipment is thicker, and there is more gusseting.” He notes that on their loaders and roadbuilders, Cat uses one-inch-thick steel, rather than five-eighths.

“Some people say that the price of Cat equipment is high—but it’s high for a reason. You won’t have problems in the bush with Cat equipment most of the time.

“And the service has been good with Finning,” he adds.

And uptime is critical for the operation, as they can have some fairly short time windows to carry out logging. Excuses about equipment being down don’t cut it for customers.

“You need to have reliable equipment,” says Douglas. “If someone wants 20,000 cubic metres logged and yarded and wants it done in a certain number of weeks, you need to have the equipment to get it done.”

The allegiance to Cat yellow comes honestly to Douglas. “My Dad was a really strong Cat guy.”

They had been doing their own processing, with a Cat 324 with a Waratah 624 head. But more recently they have been subbing out this work, with a contract processor who has a Cat 320 with a Waratah 622 head.

“Contracting the processing gives us flexibility—the processing work can be up and down,” says Douglas.

The operations are not exclusively Cat. On the gravel side, they have Cat D6N, D8K and D9G dozers, and a John Deere 650 dozer. Excavators include a Cat 320L, a Deere 370EX, a Deere 450CLC and a Volvo EC460 BLC. They have a Cat 980F loader and two Komatsu WA 500 machines, and three Volvo A25C rock trucks. The most recent additions are a Cat 972 wheel loader and a D6T dozer.

They used to have three logging trucks, but they are now down to one truck, and hire out most of the trucking. “The winters are pretty tough in this area—it was too tough to find good drivers. There are owner/operators out there that we use, but there are not enough of them for the industry.”

Though he picks up equipment at auction from time to time, Douglas generally steers clear of older, used equipment. “There always seems to be something going on with them—it could be a pump problem, or something electrical, or this or that. I want to be able to go in there and do the logging work with the equipment I have, and have it work.”

It’s handy to have the sand/gravel business nearby, says Douglas. “We’ll borrow equipment from that operation for the logging side, periodically.”

“We can be using a lot of the same equipment—you have to forestry guard the equipment before it goes out in the bush, of course. But with our operators, some of them can adapt to working logging, too.”

B.C.’s Lincoln DouglasA high percentage of the employees at the gravel/sand operation are from the band, and Douglas hires band members for the logging side, wherever possible.

One of the company’s operators is Kelsey Pelegrin, a young First Nations woman who graduated from a heavy equipment training class in 2014—coming in second among the 17 taking the class. A member of the Bridge River Indian Band, she took the program offered by Sto;lo Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training. The program involved lots of classroom time, but there was also plenty of practical experience in the field with excavators, loaders, dozers, grader rock trucks and backhoes. She hired on with K&L soon after finishing the program, and now operates a Volvo 460 excavator that does stripping and gravel loading in the company’s gravel pit. “Kelsey is a hard worker,” says Douglas.

The sand/gravel operation and the logging operation share a common shop, a 60 by 100 foot service building at the gravel pit. “We do all our big repairs there,” says Douglas. “That’s really the base for all of our equipment.” They have two service trucks, one for the gravel operation, and one for the logging operation.

“Having one service truck in the bush is enough for now,” says Douglas.”Our equipment in the bush is fairly new, and has warranties on it. So we’re not really pushed to be out in the field, fixing stuff. It’s more routine maintenance.

“If we need to do anything major, we try to schedule it, and get it in the shop between jobs. We had one of our loaders in recently, that needed a couple of guards fixed, and we had it in the shop coming out of Boston Bar and going to Jones Lake.”

Getting back into logging has reinforced to Douglas that the logging and sand/gravel businesses are quite different in some important respects—and this could result in some changes going forward for the logging side. “With the gravel operation, it’s all in one location, in the gravel pit. I can go there every day, and see what’s going on, and talk to the people operating the equipment.

“Logging is a bit different because you can be operating from a bunch of different locations. I can’t be hands on with that every day, and be at all those places.”

B.C.’s Lincoln DouglasIt’s handy to have the sand/gravel business nearby, says Lincoln Douglas, as they can borrow equipment from that operation for the logging side, periodically. “We can be using a lot of the same equipment—you have to forestry guard the equipment before it goes out in the bush, of course,” he says. “And with our operators, some of them can adapt to working logging, too.”

He said they’d like to sub-contract more of the logging work, with perhaps K&L doing 50 per cent, and the rest subbed out. “I’m trying to get some of the local, younger people to get more engaged in the business, take on some risk and get their own equipment,” he says. That way, he could hire them to process/haul the wood at a set amount per cubic metre, and they—not Douglas—would be responsible for that work.

“We are probably going to do more of that, rather than pick up more gear ourselves,” says Douglas.

Running a total of six businesses—including the logging and gravel businesses, and a store that sells wild salmon and First Nations related gifts—Douglas does not want to put all his eggs in that proverbial one basket.

“I’m pretty diversified—that way your income is not tied to just one business. If you only have one business, and it goes south—like it did with the forest industry a few years ago—you could be out of business.”

That said, he’s looking to perhaps expand a bit further, with a modest sawmilling operation. “For me, it’s about creating opportunity in our community. The sawmill might not create a lot of work at the beginning, but who knows. You start with a couple of guys on a Wood-Mizer, but then you could bring in an edger, maybe a planer, and then a kiln …”

Logging and Sawmilling Journal
July/August 2016

On the Cover:
Everything is in place for the largest live logging equipment show in North America this year—DEMO 2016, to be held at the UBC Research Forest near Vancouver from September 22-24—and the package is impressive. Read all about DEMO beginning on page 38 of this issue.

IS MEXICO RIPE FOR THE PICKING—for Canadian softwood lumber producers?
It was smiles all around at the recent “Three Amigos” Summit in Ottawa, hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with guests President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. But the summit has now got some in the industry wondering how they can expand lumber exports to Mexico.

Logging safety net
A decision by Alberta’s Barmac Contracting to diversify, and be involved in logging, is now paying off and proving to be a solid safety net, with the dramatic drop in activity in the oilpatch.

Ramping it up
Fraser Valley contractor D. Lind Logging has ramped up its equipment line-up considerably in recent years and the family operation is now a full-on stump-to-dump contractor, and able to take on more volume.

Getting back into logging
Having built a successful gravel business, B.C.’s Lincoln Douglas decided to re-enter logging six years ago, doing work in southwestern B.C., and is now looking to get into the value-added sector with a small sawmilling operation.

LSJ Show Guide --DEMO 2016
Full details on the largest logging equipment show this year: DEMO 2016, being held in Maple Ridge, B.C., including a list of exhibitors, schedule of events, site map.

Technology in the woods
With everything from IPads to drones and custom Apps, technology is hitting the woods, and it’s making pretty much everything more efficient—and safer, too.

SOLID SAFETY commitment
West Fraser Timber has a from the top down commitment to safety, which is reflected in the solid safety strategies employed at one of its operations in the B.C. Interior, its Pacific Inland Resources division.

Steep slope logging, European-style
Ponsse dealer ALPA Equipment recently demo’ed some European steep slope logging equipment to two of New Brunswick’s largest forestry operators, to help meet the growing interest in what’s available in steep slope logging technology.

Scaling back log scaling costs
Interfor’s Acorn sawmill in Surrey, B.C. now has the first government certified legal-for-trade log scanner in North America, and it’s reducing scaling costs while providing more accurate log measurements.

Future forests resilient to climate change?
A forestry trial in the B.C. Interior could very well provide some clues into what future forests could look like, in the wake of the mountain pine beetle—and those forests could have increased resilience to climate change.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions and FPInnovations.

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