Mendocino County Loggers
By Kurt Glaeseman
It’s almost a paradox: How does the logging industry survive in a heavy tourist area of a state known for its stringent logging restrictions? Yet in California’s Mendocino County, the scenic coastline highway is still shared by campers, cyclists, day-trippers…and a strong contingent of log trucks. Many of the clean and shiny Kenworths proudly display the name of a major player in the area Anderson Logging, Inc., Fort Bragg, Calif.
Mike Anderson and his son, Myles, are well aware that their company comes under close scrutiny, but they’re professionals. They play by the rules, run a safe operation, provide wages and benefits for almost 100 employees, and capitalize on efficient machinery and intelligent strategies. Logging is still alive and well in Mendocino County.
Four Generations The Andersons have honed their logging skills through the generations. Mike Anderson’s maternal grandfather emigrated from Italy in 1921 and worked in Pacific Coast logging camps. Mike’s paternal grandfather logged in Wisconsin. Mike’s father, Don, came to Fort Bragg in the 1940s, worked in the woods, and then started a logging company with Bud Eastman. Mike helped on weekends and in the summers, and then attended Humboldt State, where he got a degree in Forestry and also his Professional Forester’s License.
When Mike graduated in 1976, he worked with his dad and eventually took over the business. For a period of about ten years, Anderson Logging was geographically separated into the Fort Bragg operation and a Sierra Nevada operation based out of Jackson, Calif. In the late ‘90s, the Sierra branch was sold, and today Fort Bragg remains the home base for Anderson Logging.
Myles is now taking over more and more of the leadership responsibilities. “At age 18,” says Mike, “Myles would set chokers all day, get out of the crummy, and then shadow the mechanics to see what they were doing.” Myles wasn’t content to jump full-time into logging. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Bio-Resources and Ag-Engineering, and then went on for a Master’s in Engineering. As Mike puts it, his son is still a logger, but a highly educated one.
Mike, mellow and well spoken, admits he was much more intense in his early years with the company. He was a risk-taker, and he didn’t always do things in a predictable order. For example, when he saw that flying between Fort Bragg and Jackson was more efficient than driving, he purchased a Piper…and then took the requisite flying lessons to get his pilot’s license.
Don Sallinen, one of the foremen, is a long-term employee and their resident yarder expert. At one yarder side, Alvaro Sanchez operates what they call their hybrid “Mad Bird” originally a Thunderbird, but painted and converted to a Madil 6250. His working cohort is Greg Butterfield, who operates a CAT 320C. Both Sanchez and Butterfield are known as excellent operators.
At this particular selective logging side, the tree species percentage is very important in a profit-loss analysis. The grand, or white fir, currently has low economic value, and with transportation costs it could be harvested at a loss. About 40 percent of the harvest is Doug fir, trucked a relatively short distance, so it’s still profitable. Redwood is the money-maker. For a Mendocino County job to be profitable, there must be an adequate percentage of the more valuable redwood.
Another side has a Timbco 445 feller buncher working in tandem with Jason McCord running a grapple and Ricky Stoddard in a 320 Cat loader. Mike Anderson points with pride to the smooth-flowing rhythm of each facet of the job: falling, sorting, bunching, skidding, decking, and finally loading into a waiting Kenworth.
Myles expects maximum performance from both trucks and drivers. He insists that drivers are welltrained. New drivers are put through a company-training program, where they must pass tight proficiency tests. So far, they have had no major accidents, and they want to avoid even the suspicion of a risky or dangerous operation. Because trucker efficiency plays a role in profitability, close records and GPS (global positioning system) data are kept and periodically reviewed. Solid average estimates for side-to-mill hauls make scheduling easier, and it also prevents trucks from sitting idle for long, profit-eroding halts.
Some of the Anderson drivers come with decades of experience. Lawrence Filosi is 83 years old; he started trucking in 1947 and remembers driving the big off-highway logging trucks, when three logs made a load. Filosi says he’s partial to the Kenworths, “I just plain like them. I was raised in a Kenworth. I wouldn’t have any other.” He also admits he likes his present shift of two relatively easy trips to Ukiah each day.
A Face in the Community
The Andersons have definite ideas about the challenges and trends the logging industry faces in the future:
• Aging Work Force. The average age of their employees is between 40 and 50 years. Many young kids see no future in logging, and others simply have no work ethic.
• Land Fragmentation and Loss of Timber Resource Land. Much of California’s timberland is being gobbled up for parks, development, small parcels, urban sprawl, and conservation plots. There is no longer a big land base with harvestable timberland available to loggers. Lumber prices will continue to rise, opening up more competition from foreign imports.
• Global Warming. We can help reduce carbon dioxide production through good forestry practices and forest fire management. We need to get into the forests, to reduce emissions, and to stop uncontrolled fires.
• Use of Woody Biomass. Using non-merchantable forest products for ethanol production makes sense. Much of the “non-merch” is left to rot. No one wants the waste wood, but the corn has a market balance issue ethanol production or livestock feed?
When the scientific and economic philosophizing is over, Mike Anderson returns to what he considers a basic tenet of utmost importance a responsible approach to dealing with people. “If getting to the top requires stepping on people, I don’t think it’s worth it. There’s nothing wrong with making shrewd business decisions, but you don’t need to cut throats. We’re in this together. We need each other’s support. We can be both professional and considerate.”