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Making 110 Days Count
Even with a small work window and mounting regulations, Anderson Logging makes it work
Anderson Logging, based in Fort Bragg, Calif., has been in business for more than 35 years, and in this day and age, that’s definitely something to celebrate. There have been good times and bad times and for lack of a better description, they’re not out of the woods yet, both figuratively and literally.
The length of the active logging season in California averages 110 days. That small window and dozens of regulatory and other requirements present annual struggles for the family-owned logging company, says third generation logger Myles Anderson.
Currently, Anderson Logging is operating four yarder sides and two tractor sides, with a seven-person crew at each location. At one of the logging sites in Jackson Demonstration State Forest near Fort Bragg, Anderson Logging is using what Anderson calls a “Madbird” 6250 swing yarder. The yarder was built by Thunderbird, which was then purchased by Madill (the company name now on the piece of equipment).
“We run mostly Caterpillar 320 log loaders (in the woods) because they are fast and easy to move,” Anderson says. Moving to new logging locations happens more frequently than in the past.
“It used to be we would be offered a job, and we would be there all season,” Anderson said. “Now it seems like each side is moving every couple of weeks.” The equipment they use has to be easy to move, because Anderson said they end up walking much of it to the new logging location, due to road restrictions. That fact is frustrating to Anderson who said, “What good is a logging road if you can’t run logging equipment and log trucks on it? It doesn’t make any sense.”
The Right People and Equipment
The logging equipment the company uses is tailored to the conditions of the forests in Mendocino County. “The grapple tractor is a Caterpillar D-6H, which has been a great tractor for what we do with it,” Anderson says. “It works well with the steepness of the terrain and the size of the logs that we move,” he added. They also use a Caterpillar 527 tracked skidder with a winch in conjunction with the grapple cat.
At one of Anderson Logging’s tractor sides, they had hand felled and used a Timbco 445 feller buncher with a Quadco 22-inch cutting head to get the timber on the ground.
The caliber of people and experience level of Anderson Logging’s employees can be credited with keeping the company in business. Many of the current workers have been with the company since the beginning. “We have a highly trained and consistent workforce,” Anderson says “without whom there would be no Anderson Logging.”
During the active logging season, Anderson Logging employs approximately 100 people, including timber fallers, loggers, equipment operators, truck drivers, and maintenance workers. In addition, the company offers a 401(k) retirement plan, profit sharing plan, and medical and dental benefits. “Once the guys have been employed with us for a few years, we pay 100 percent of the cost,” Anderson says, “and we keep them on it [the benefits plan] year-round, whether they are working or not,” which explains how Anderson Logging keeps a consistent workforce.
Keeping Things Running
Myles’ grandfather Don Anderson started the company back in 1976 with a D7 Caterpillar tractor, a 950 wheel loader, and one Peterbilt log truck. Myles has been managing the day-to-day operations for the last ten years. “We are living on the depreciation of our equipment,” he said recently during a visit to one of their active logging sides in Mendocino County. “We’re not getting paid enough to allow us to replace our equipment when it’s worn out.” He adds, “That’s scary.”
Myles received a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He then got his Master’s degree from U.C. Davis. “I could have gone and done anything, in fact my father told me when I graduated from high school, ‘you’re going to college, and you’re not going into forestry. You have to learn something else.’” But Myles wanted to be back at Anderson Logging.
One Anderson Logging policy that does make sense and gives the company a competitive edge is record keeping. “We keep records of production, load averages, trip times with the trucks, everything.” Anderson says. What they learn from those records is applied to future jobs.
The Anderson Logging team of Myles, his father Mike Anderson (who ran the company for many years), and Logging Supervisors Donny Sallinen, Mark Leroy, and Jesse Villalpondo all have input on bidding new logging jobs. “It’s not just one person’s best guess,” Anderson says. Once the job is complete, the actual data is compiled and is reviewed by everyone. “We can see if we were really close or way off,” Anderson says, “and learn how to be more productive in the future.”
Anderson Logging has just ordered two new Caterpillar 660 logging trucks with C13 475 horsepower, after running a fleet of 30 Kenworth trucks for almost 30 years.
“The main benefit of the Caterpillar trucks is that we have a local Caterpillar dealer that understands the importance of timely service and parts availability in our short season,” Anderson said. “We run a lot of Cat equipment in the woods and the result of Peterson Tractor’s service speaks for itself,” he added. Peterson tractor is located in Willits, Calif., less than a one-hour drive from Anderson Logging’s home base.
Another cost-efficiency move has been to install SI Onboard scales in most of the company’s logging trucks. “We have found them to be very accurate, which is extremely important when hauling long distances as we do,” Anderson says. “It is not uncommon for our trucks to be weighed multiple times per day,” he adds. Using the SI Onboard scales can prevent the truck from being overloaded before leaving the logging operation.
When asked about the future of logging operations, Anderson is worried about several things. One, few young people are interested in getting involved, especially for the higher trained jobs such as timber fallers and truck drivers; Two, a lack of logging equipment being manufactured; Three, a lack of milling facilities; and Four, a lack of community support for the industry.
“The community of Fort Bragg is surrounded by half a million acres of industrial timberland, half a million acres,” Anderson emphasizes. “There used to be two sawmills, and now there is none. The other interesting thing is will the community support it?”
Anderson believes the public and community perception of the logging industry is changing, after many years of polarization. But without community support, the logging industry will not be able to move forward as a long-term player and employer. “Since they’ve gone [the mills], the schools are in trouble, the hospital is in trouble, a lot of things people took for granted are gone,” Anderson says. “So moving forward, the question is, will the community support milling and jobs?”
To keep positive momentum moving forward, Anderson is involved with two groups: The American Loggers Council on the federal level, and Associated California Loggers on the state level. “It’s starting to get to the point where it feels like we might actually have a seat at some of these tables, to have an influence on some of the decisions that are being made.”
Anderson says although the alternative may make more sense, for now the company is here to stay. “We’ve got this huge investment in equipment. We’d make a better return having an auction and putting it (the money) in the bank. So why beat our heads against the wall?” he asks. “It’s because of the guys who have been here their whole lives, working side by side. It’s a way of life. That’s what it boils down to, and I can’t turn my back on that.
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