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
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.
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.
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‚Äô 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
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 ‚Äúnontraditional‚Äù harvests. By 2006, more than 70 percent of Krueger‚Äôs operations were focused on stand enhancement rather than harvests primarily for fiber production.
Covering All Bases
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
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
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.