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OSU Student Logging Program
Helping Oregon’s timber industry stay strong through hands-on training
By Clayton Petree
Oregon has one of the strongest timber industries in the United States, having led the nation in timber harvest and softwood production over the last 25 years. One of the many factors contributing to the state being on top for so long is the Oregon State University College of Forestry’s Student Logging Program. The program has been producing high quality forestry graduates with “boots on the ground” experience for more than thirty years.
Back in 1982, Dr. Ed Aulrich and Dr. Loren Kellogg founded the Student Logging Program. They were busy
Today, Senior Instructor Jeff Wimer says, “When students graduate from my program, they are capable loggers. With our program, we do it all, from unit layout to timber falling, high climbing, choker setting, and operating all of the equipment.”
Wimer knows what makes a capable logger. In addition to his ten years at OSU, Jeff has clocked in 20 years of logging experience gained working at the family-owned Wimer Logging, was a partially owned subsidiary of Willamette Industries. The company operated for 54 years in Albany, Ore., until the company was sold as part of a larger sale of Willamette Industries.
Wimer says, “My father was a true believer that if, eventually, you were going to run the business, you should have firsthand knowledge of all the jobs you will be administering.” Because of his father’s holistic belief, Mr. Wimer gained experience in nearly every aspect of the logging trade during those two decades of work.
When Wimer Logging was sold, Jeff went back to school to sharpen his computer coding skills. It was happenstance that the Student Logging Program instructor position opened up about the same time, and after several people had encouraged Jeff to apply, he decided to give it a try. Jeff explains, “Originally when I started, I thought to myself I would give it five years and see. I have since fallen in love with the program.”
When the program was launched in 1982, the university acquired a Koller K300. The tower stood 23’ tall and was mounted to a Kubota tractor via a three-point hitch. It had a 5/8” skyline and a 3/8” mainline. The school also acquired a used John Deere 540B skidder. In the early years of the program, all of the equipment was perfectly adequate but by the time Jeff Wimer came to work at the College of Forestry in 2003, the stands had grown to the point where the equipment was struggling to keep up. As Wimer puts it, “The more mature stands, coupled with the fact that we were being hammered with equipment breakdowns, made it clear we needed to make some changes.”
Wimer made the decision to ask manufacturers if they could help them find a used, good condition loader for classroom use. The first manufacturer to answer the call was Link-Belt/Triad Machinery who, Wimer says, “Answered my call for help in a huge way.”
Not only did Link-Belt/Triad Mach-inery provide OSU with a loader, they donated a brand new log loader that is rotated out on an annual basis. These donations helped to eliminate the downtime the college was experiencing with the older equipment. The downtime was having a serious impact on the ability to train our next generation. Wimer says, “Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee this coming!”
Associated Oregon Loggers and several alumni provided funding for a nice used Koller 501 yarder that was rebuilt by Koller NA and then, of course, was painted by alumni in OSU’s colors of orange and black. Last, but certainly not least, Papé Machinery noticed (during one of the many field events) that the school was still using a very old and worn skidder and donated a brand new John Deere 648H skidder with an annual replacement.
Keeping the Program Funded
The College of Forestry is currently working on an endowment program. “When I asked the college for money to replace our aging and failing equipment, I was told that no money had been set aside for its eventual replacement. My goal is to build an endowment so that the program will have the money in the future to replace equipment as needed.”
Wimer adds, “Many see the value of the program and want to contribute to its long term success.” This endowment will help OSU grow the program over time.
Made up of two distinct parts, the main portion is the Student Logging Program. A select group of students are hired and spend the first three months in an extensive safety training program. The next nine months are spent in the forest for hands-on training to complete the yearlong process.
After one year of service, students typically stay on until they graduate. Wimer says, “The returning students are key to the success of the program, as I can only be in one place at a time. The more experienced students help provide oversight, training, and mentoring for incoming students.”
The goal, according to Wimer, is to expose students to all aspects of logging with the primary area of concentration being cable and skidder logging. Wimer explains, “During the year, students are exposed to both cable and skidder logging in thinning and in regeneration harvests. Students typically graduate with over 750 hours of timber falling experience, 300-400 hours of choker setting and/or rigger slinger experience, and at least 200 hours of equipment operation. When a student graduates from our logging program, they know how to work, are capable loggers, and they all have a healthy respect for logging.”
The second portion of the program primarily educates students who are enrolled in the College of Forestry but are not enrolled in the Student Logging Program. Between 300 and 500 visitors each year come to the student logging area for anything from simple observation to training.
Training may consist of rigging, falling, climbing, and even equipment operation. In addition, the Student Logging Program hosts various training events for the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the private sector. Jeff says, “One example is a partnership with Oregon Cutting Systems who brings several groups a year out to the Student Logging operation to train their employees and individuals in their distribution network. This allows them to see how their products are actually used in the field.”
Thanks to the Companies
While Oregon has a vast supply of natural resources, it takes skilled, experienced people to safely harvest and care for Oregon’s resource lands. With the programs offered by Oregon State University, such as the College of Forestry and the Student Logging Program, firms are able to hire capable graduates with significant hours of experience directly out of school.
In addition, due to the hard work of people like Senior Instructor Jeff Wimer and the generosity of companies such as Papé Machinery, Koller NA, and Link-Belt/Triad Machinery, along with gracious alumni, the students are trained on state-of-the-art machinery as well.
“The contributions the industry has provided have helped OSU to produce students with a valuable logging background,” says Wimer, “which is the key to the success of our graduates.”
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