By Jim Stirling
Simple, clean and efficient. Those were the guiding principles for Gregory Jacob when he began his examination of available steep slope log harvesting methods. His quest steered him toward a straightforward sounding system with an inferred efficiency.
“It appealed to me,” he recalled. The system involved using winch assisted machines to allow harvesting equipment easier access to timber across a broader cross section of steep and challenging terrains.
Jacob is president of Lo-Bar Log Transport, a full service log harvesting contractor for Canfor Corp., and his operation is based in Prince George, British Columbia. While it’s still early days, Lo-Bar’s system is working well and fulfilling its early promise.
The key new machine in Lo-Bar’s steep slope arsenal is a wheeled John Deere 1910E cut to length forwarder with a Haas winch. Scheduled for a demo around the time this is being read is a JD 1470G rubber tired forwarder that will also be fitted with a Haas winch. Other machines already playing integral roles in the harvesting system are a Tigercat LH855D self levelling processor with a Southstar 600 head; an L870C Tigercat levelling feller buncher and—what is believed to be the first of its kind delivered in Canada—a Tigercat LX870D buncher.
“We’re trying to do something that not everyone else here is doing yet,” explained Jacob. And harvesting the higher ground efficiently is something that needs to be done.
The easy ground timber close to the sawmills was long ago creamed off. The pine flats are basically exhausted, with the finishing touches applied by the accelerated and prolonged salvage operations associated with the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Now there’s nowhere else to go but further out and up. It’s the new forest, into the larger diameter old growth spruce and balsam forests.
With that harvesting site migration comes a new and expensive package of challenges for the log harvesting contractor. For the licencee, the trend means more costly wood fibre and probably a different species mix. Logging higher elevations in many areas of the B.C. Interior involves harvesting larger volumes of balsam with its associated lumber production and drying issues. Given that background reality, Lo-Bar expressed a willingness to take on the risk of developing a workable high ground log harvesting system. Canfor responded and assigned the logging company to work in the higher elevation Tumuch country, southeast of Prince George.
Lo-Bar had been working with the winch assisted Deere 1910E forwarder for about three months when Logging and Sawmilling Journal visited the hillside block where it was working. “We have been very happy with the outcome,” reported Jacob. “Our expectations have been met. There were no ugly surprises. The machine has worked straight out of the box.”
The forwarder is being targeted for slopes up to around 50 per cent, although slopes in the Tumuch are often inconsistent and come with their steeper pitches and flatter sections.
The drum containing the Haas winch is welded on to the back of the forwarder while a strawline is anchored at the top of the hill being harvested. The winch contains 400 metres of 14 millimetre diameter cable.
“The winch acts more as an assist,” Jacobs said, “and it’s more integral in getting up the hill. It kicks in if the wheels start to spin,” he added.
The tilting crane levels out, allowing a more effective swing. The well protected operator’s cab looks somewhat like a glass gondola. “The operators love the visibility.” The cab follows close behind the movement of the boom and has a rotation of about 270 degrees. The swivelling ability can contribute around 10 per cent more work from the machine and is easier on and less tiring for the operator. “It’s all about efficiency,” he summarized.
It will take more time to fully assess all aspects of the machine’s overall performance. “Our cost analysis of the machine is still underway.”
Effectively extending the log harvesting season is a further anticipated benefit to emerge from the forwarder. “A brush mat laid ahead of the forwarder can reduce damage to the ground and keep us working longer into the break-up period,” Jacob pointed out.
Lo-Bar took delivery of its Tigercat LH855D with Southstar 600 head last fall and the combination has been acquitting itself well. The machine represents well- understood and appreciated equipment for Lo-Bar and its crews. “We have 11 Southstar heads, eight of the 600 size which allow us to manufacture more trees, and three 500s.”
The Tigercat/Southstar combination is an all-Canadian manufactured duo. Tigercat machines are manufactured in Ontario and Southstar heads in Kamloops, B.C. Jacob believes Tigercat make good, reliable and productive purpose-designed log harvesting equipment. Those advantages bring with them another. When it comes time to upgrade or replace, the Tigercats command good re-sale prices. “That is a major consideration.”
Lo-Bar’s new Tigercat LX870D fully meets the latest Tier 4 emission standards and has other new features. Jacob said these include a re-designed operators cab and a closed loop drive system. The system allows a dedicated hydraulic pump for each track.
But the weather can still trump technology. It’s another reason why finding methods to elongate the log harvesting season through the annual break-up period can be hugely important. Break-up in the Central Interior of B.C. has in the last few years become something of a nebulous occasion, hard to predict by date or longevity. But the weather started to impact and influence log harvesting and transportation scheduling last fall with prolonged periods of wet weather.
“We’ve never caught up,” said Jacob. In March and April this year, the challenge was on to keep Canfor’s fibre short mills running according to schedule through the break-up period, however long that turns out to be. A method of trying to achieve that was to bring the wood down from the high country and seek the relevant permission to create re-load points on main haul logging roads closer to highways and the sawmills.
The Tumuch and surrounding drainages which include harvesting sites more than 4,000 feet above sea level are about a two-hour drive east of Prince George. Jacob had the foresight to acquire a mobile camp about a year ago as part of his strategy for offering the licencee a steep slope harvesting capability. The camp is a well equipped oil field style unit that is readily portable. It has a 32 room private room capacity. The problem is, Jacob’s anticipating having up to three divisions of his company working in the Tumuch region this summer which could translate into 50 or 60 people. He was considering an addition to the existing camp site. It’s relatively central to the sprawling region and has the advantages of permitting and infrastructure such as wells already being in place. “It should be the best location to service the client (Canfor),” Jacob explained. And to maintain the critical flow of fibre from the summer ground in the Tumuch to Canfor’s sawmills.
On the Cover:
Simple, clean and efficient were the guiding principles for B.C. logger Gregory Jacob when he began his examination of available steep slope log harvesting methods. He was able to get exactly that, and the key new machine in Gregory’s steep slope arsenal is a wheeled John Deere 1910E cut to length forwarder with a Haas winch. Read all about it on page 10 (Cover photo by Jim Stirling).
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