Or CLICK to download a pdf of this article
Redwood is Where it’s At
A glimpse inside Green Diamond Resource Company
By Kathy Coatney
Green Diamond Resource Company (GDRC), formerly Simpson Timber Company, is a family-run option, but that doesn’t mean it’s small. The direct descendants of the fifth-generation forest products company still oversee the management of the company’s timberlands in California and Washington. They are committed to good stewardship and providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees — about 170 — and contractors.
Mike Carroll, Logging Supervisor for GDRC, says safety is at the top of the priority for the company. During the winter, they can have five to seven company sides between the cable and shovel yarding. These can be supplemented with contract logging sides.
During the summer, GDRC has up to seven company sides, which are complemented with up to 13 or more contract sides.
One of these ways they keep folks safe is by ensuring shovel and tractor logging sites are restricted to a maximum 40 percent slope for safety.
It is also about productivity, of course, says Carroll. “It’s really hard to work on those kinds of slopes, but the number one criterion for us is the safety.”
Hitachi 350 log loader working at GDRC site outside of McKinleyville, Calif.
Dave Carter, logging superintendant for GDRC, says in 2012 they did about 1,000 acres of thinning in 35-year-old stands.
The goal was to take out some of the white and Douglas fir as well as a few hemlock and spruce.
“We’re trying to grow a better redwood tree for when the market turns around, and it’s a little more hungry for the redwood,” says Carter. “At that point, GDRC will have larger diameter trees and more heartwood to log.”
GDRC has also had competition with composite decking, an alternative people are choosing now over Redwood. “We’re really having to struggle with that,” Carter says.
Currently, GDRC is collaborating with one of their competitors, Humboldt Redwood Company, to pitch redwood over composite decking. With support of a grant from the county to stimulate more local jobs, they are developing a combined marketing strategy to increase redwood sales.
GDRC, which owns and managed about 390,000 acres of timberland in California, is all about selling redwood. “That’s our customers. That’s what our salesmen are set up for. They know how to sell redwood. It’s our bread and butter. That’s where we make our money,” says Carter.
At one point, GDRC put out whatever redwood they could, and that included redwood that had a lot of sapwood and knots. As a result, Carter says, customers were no longer excited about redwood.
GDRC is now working to rebuild that customer base by supplying a higher quality product, and thinning will help them grow that better log.
Operator is preparing to load a logging truck at GDRC site.
When it comes to harvesting, GDRC doesn’t build skidder roads, which can cause sediment to find its way into waterways — something the company wants to avoid. “We’re really opposed to building skid roads here, so the only time we use skid roads is in our thinning,” Carter says. “We will build roads out into these units, and when we’re finished, the roads are basically abandoned.”
As a result, GDRC does the majority of their logging with shovels. “We’ll swing logs for about 300 feet, at the most, to a road,” says Carter.
For their log loaders (shovels) GDRC uses two Caterpillar (Cat) 568s, three John Deere 3754s, and one 330 Cat. They also have two Hitachi 350 log loaders.
Three yarders are in operation — two Madill 124s and one Madill 6255. “We really, really like the Madills,” says Carter. “The company’s Madill 6255 is one of two machines that the transitioning team of Madill’s built when they bought out Thunderbird.”
A Washington 1188 was used at one point, but for the ease of working on the equipment, the Madills won out. The company finds they are just easy to work on.
GDRC likes that the Madill is also easy for the operators to run, and they’re easier to train new employees to run. The Madill is also a bigger machine, says Carter. This is important on the redwood coast as units can vary from very large to really small trees. “We need a machine that can transition from large to small, and Madill fits the bill.”
Cat has its advantages for GDRC, in particular the Tier 4 engine. “The Tier 4 has compliance in regard to air quality,” says Carroll. “Most of the equipment these days are trying to get to the Tier 4 level, and they’re working on their technology, but Cat’s already got there.”
Workers sending logs up via skyline.
Sawmill Log Yard Equipment
Then there is the sawmill side of GDRC. The California Redwood Company (part of GDRC) employs approximately 200 people, has both a log yard with a saw log inventory and a sawmill, as well as remanufacturing facilities.
Selby Gomes, the Log Yard supervisor for the California Redwood Company says Californai Redwood Company operates six LeTourneau log stackers, and they are all four-wheel drive models — two 4595s, one 2594 SS, and three 2594s.
The advantage of the LeTourneaus is the parts are interchangeable. If one machine goes down, they usually have spare parts in the truck shop to replace it, says Gomes.
The California Redwood Company has a Cat 345 material handler onsite that was converted to a log decking machine by making a longer boom and stick. The conversion works well for high decking, and there haven’t been any major issues with it, but there were some problems with the grapple.
“The engineering wasn’t quite up to par, but we’ve managed to modify it to where it’s a reliable machine,” Gomes says.
A 450 John Deere shovel is also used as a high decking machine. “We just added a few booms and sticks to make it longer so we could high deck,” says Gomes.
A private contractor operates a 322C Pierce Delimber at the GDRC outside of McKinleyville, Calif.
Parts and Downtime
The summer season for the California north coast is May fifteenth to October fifteenth. As much as three quarters of GDRC’s volume comes in during that time of the year. This means down time is not something they can afford, and equipment choice usually comes down to availability of parts and repair sites.
“That’s pretty much why we stick with the John Deere and the Caterpillar to be honest with you. We would like to try some other folks out, but as far as getting parts and service, there’s a John Deere mechanic who lives in this area, and he’s here when we need him,” Carter says, adding, “Cat is just 30 miles south with their shop, and they’re readily available whenever we have a breakdown.”
Equipment choices come down to whether you can get the parts and the repairs when you need them.
“The bottom line is, we can’t afford to be down,” Carter says.