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Enhanced Forest Management (EFM) is known for its broad spectrum of services, ranging from pure commercial harvest to exclusively ecologically driven operations.

New Blood
Dyrk Krueger and his company, Enhanced Forest Management, represent the new generation of loggers in Montana

By Jeff Mullins

When loggers speak of industry challenges, after mentioning fuel cost, restrictive rules, and lack of available timber, they often lament, ‚"We are getting old. We don‚'t see the young guys getting into the business.‚"

A shining exception on western Montana‚'s landscape is Dyrk Krueger, a young man exemplifying a new generation of loggers who embrace today‚'s obstacles to traditional harvests as promising opportunities.

As his company‚'s name, Enhanced Forest Management (EFM) implies, Dyrk harvests timber in ways that give the landowners‚ environmental, aesthetic, and wildlife habitat concerns top priority without neglecting operational efficiency and productivity goals.

Same Equipment ‚ Different Outcomes
From a distance, EFM looks like any other modern mechanized logging operation ‚Äî hot saw equipped feller bunchers, large rubber-tired grapple skidders, and large tracked carriage machines. But the broad spectrum of services he offers his customers, ranging from pure commercial harvest to exclusively ecologically driven operations, sets Krueger‚'s company apart.

While commercial logging operations focus primarily on generating profit for landowners and loggers by marketing fiber, Dyrk strives to help his customers manage timber to meet their personal goals and optimize the long term value of their real estate and timber.

Dyrk says that wooded tracts in western Montana have become costly. "Frequently, more value is gained for landowners by enhancing their timber stand rather than doing a commercial harvesting."

Increasing Value
That said, Dyrk is able to, and frequently does, fulfill contracts for commercial timber harvests. "Wooded tracts in western Montana have become very costly. Frequently, more value is
gained for landowners by enhancing their timber stand rather than doing a commercial harvesting," says Dyrk. " $1,500 an acre may be realized by sending all the trees to the mill, enhancing the same stand may increase property values many times over."

Although this present day reality is disconcerting to some, the trend seems to be sweeping the nation, and even large commercial timber companies like Plum Creek and Weyerhaeuser are capitalizing by selling, at premium prices, small wooded parcels to people who want to live "in the woods."

Other factors also are pressing upon the logging landscape. Tree mortality from drought and beetle infestation forces land owners to either salvage the wood or lose the value. The looming threat of a fire diminishing their stand to blackened poles in a single day is prompting many land owners to take action to protect their investment and preserve the value residing in their standing trees.

One of his biggest challenges for EFM is convincing customers that big machines do not necessarily mean a big mess.

Customized Logging Services In many instances, environmental, cultural, and financial forces are combining to dictate to land owners that something other than commercial timber harvest is most prudent.

Bounded by regulations, but respectful of property owners’ rights and knowledgeable about their options, Dyrk helps land owners custom- design the harvest to enhance habitat, reduce fuels, improve stands, and generate profits according to their priorities.

Horses to Skidder
Dyrk Krueger grew up familiar with logging but had no idea he would end up where he is today. While training cutting horses near his Hamilton, Mont., home in 1993, a customer asked 18-year-old Dyrk to harvest a valuable pine stand.

With no money and little experience, he dropped the reigns and accepted the challenge. Borrowing a Homelite saw he went to work using a Mountain Logger H skidder that he was expected to buy whenever he got the money. The saw soon disintegrated. By borrowing money to get a new one, and taking some instruction from another logger, Dyrk completed that job, but not before another neighbor solicited his services.

Because he lived with his parents, his expenses were minimal, allowing investment of his profits back into his emerging company, retiring his debts, repairing the skidder, and purchasing a self loader on the back of a Ford tandem axle truck to load logs. With a simple desire to keep working, the next few years found Dyrk taking the jobs and upgrading equipment to broaden his capabilities.

Dyrk says, "My dad was my 'working mentor,' hauling logs and transporting equipment, and his help was important to me getting started well." In 1995, subcontracting for Woodland Restoration exposed him first hand to ecology based, low impact forest management operations. The concept sparked Dyrk's interest, and he enrolled in courses offered through the Montana Logging Association to improve his understanding.

As he gained experience in this niche, he also developed a good name leading to more opportunities to conduct “nontraditional” harvests. By 2006, more than 70 percent of Krueger’s operations were focused on stand enhancement rather than harvests primarily for fiber production.

Covering All Bases
Kruger and his two employees, Roy Brodmerkle and Jed Nelson, share operating responsibilities on EFM's diversified equipment and are able to successfully complete almost any type of logging operation. Productive and versatile, a Timbco 445B feller buncher with a 22 Quadco hot saw, not only fells stems for most of Krueger's operations, but he often hires it out because its production capability exceeds his needs, and the machine is in high demand.

EFM helps landowners custom-design the harvest. Priorities include: enhancing habitat, reducing fuels, improving stands, and generating profits.

A custom-built excaliner with pull master winches, mounted on a Hyundai 210 excavator can retrieve stems from difficult to access places. A TimberJack 380 grapple skidder pulls turns to the ThunderBird 600 road builder equipped with a "quick attach" Keto 500 harvesting head for processing. A Barko 450 log loader places logs onto hired trucks for transport to the mills.

Also available for use are a TD14 dozer, a grader for plowing, a Bantam 350 yarder, and a Schaeff HS 40 walking excavator. Dyrk says the "spider hoe" is especially suited to piling brush on steep ground and is an effective tool for establishing fire lines and completing "in stream" log placements.

"People think big machines equate to big mess but it‚'s simply not true," says Dyrk. He admits he previously equated environmentally sensitive operations to small rubber-tired equipment. But time and experience changed his mind. Dyrk operates large productive track machines and states one of his greatest challenges is convincing customers that the size and type of machine is less important than the attitude possessed and care exercised by the operator.

Cutting the Costs
Even though the land owners Dyrk serves are often not motivated by selling trees for a profit, the logging he does is profitable for him and for the landowner in the long run. This is true even though much of the work EFM performs costs landowners money out of pocket to improve stands, enhance habitat, and reduce the fire danger.

Dyrk researches and informs landowners of cost sharing programs intended to address some of the issues they face. Dyrk knows that a potential customer will be more likely to utilize his services if he can secure cost sharing funds to help meet their goals at a reduced cost.

A Cooperative Effort
Dyrk views enhancing timberlands not just as a business, but something beneficial to everyone. The owner's land and timber increase in value, fire dangers are reduced, wildlife habitat is increased, and he earns a living. Additionally, commercial logging opportunities are optimized since enhanced stands will grow better timber faster and will need to be harvested sooner.

From the agencies providing funds, to the land owners and other contractors, Dyrk finds and fosters cooperative effort rather than a competitive environment. He contends that good working relationships with employees, contractors, mills, and foresters all contribute significantly to the satisfaction and enjoyment the work gives him.