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Finding the Balance

Newfoundland logging contractor Woodrow Fudge takes a balanced approach to wood harvesting and is a member of an awardwinning environmental management team.

By Wendy Houlihan


Logging in Newfoundland, like logging in just about any other area of Canada, is about more than just harvesting the forest these days. It is also about ever-advancing harvesting methods, continuous learning, sound environmental practices and perhaps most important, sustainable forest and integrated resource management.

Add these to the always important cost controls, quality guidelines, timely fibre deliveries, low inventory levels and safety of employees through safe work practices, and it's more than easy to see the constant challenges facing logging contractors.

As a 27year veteran of Abitibi Consolidated's Newfoundland woodlands team, Woodrow Fudge has experienced the evolution of logging systems from a completely manual treelength-to-slasher skidder operation, complemented by cut and bunch, to the present day system of 70 per cent mechanical cut-to-length harvesters, complemented by 30 per cent manual cut and bunch.

Fudge, who was born in Brighton, a tiny community in Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland, started his career with Abitibi Consolidated as a scalar at Sandy Badger in central Newfoundland. In 1987 he became foreman of the formerly company-owned harvester fleet, which consisted of five Rottne Rapid and five FMG Lokomo machines. These machines would simply cut, delimb, and process trees into 2.5 metre lengths at the stump, and operated in the western portion of Abitibi Consolidated's timber limits. In the winter of 1997, Abitibi Consolidated decided to privatize its harvesting fleet. It was at this point that Fudge formed his own contracting business known as Fudge Enterprises. His operation, right up to today, supplies pulpwood fiber to the Abitibi Consolidated newsprint mill at Stephenville, Newfoundland.

Hilly terrain, along with extremely soft lowlands and small tree sizes, moved contractor Woodrow Fudge in the direction of faster harvesting heads and forwarders which can produce on steep slopes and in soft ground conditions.

Fudge decided almost immediately that some of his harvest fleet must be replaced. Gone are two of the three 990 Lokomos, replaced by a Timberjack 1270 harvester equipped with a computer measuring system and a Newson harvester equipped with a speedy Log Max 3000 harvesting head. The third Lokomo has been refitted with a Log Max 5000 harvesting head, which is proving to work well. The present forest area has a tree size of .07 cubic metre/tree, with each machine producing approximately 100 cubic metres/day.

The forwarding phase is carried out by a six-wheel drive Timberjack 1210 and a six-wheel drive 16ton Rottne. Both these forwarders replaced four-wheel drive Tree Farmers with wide tires. "The upgrade in harvesting equipment was a must," says Fudge. The present harvest area of southwest Portage is a testament to that. This area features hilly terrain with extremely soft lowlands. This, in addition to inferior tree size, pushed Fudge to the faster harvesting heads and forwarders which can produce on steep slopes and soft ground conditions.

"This type of ground is always a challenge," says Fudge. "If my machinery is stuck, it is not producing. I depend a great deal on the wealth of experience of my crew to identify adverse ground conditions and work in accordance with those conditions" he emphasized.

Fudge says maintaining his equipment in good operating order is a constant challenge. He employs an onsite mechanic to keep the machines operating, something he considers a definite advantage. Due to the location of his operation, which is not close to any major centres, Fudge carries up to $100,000 in parts on site in an effort to reduce downtime caused by waiting for parts to arrive.

With the increase in mechanization and the inevitability of retirements, Abitibi Consolidated has taken a proactive approach to the importance of training future potential operators. Two trainers from the company workforce train the candidates in safe operating procedures, maintenance and correct operating technique, ensuring a highly motivated and skilled workforce is maintained at the Fudge harvesting operation and with other contractors.

Weather is a consideration in planning harvest activities, says Woodrow Fudge. "Making the best use of time in the bush is always a solid approach, but that's even more so when it comes to beating the unpredictable weather patterns in western Newfoundland ."

Logging camps remain important to Fudge since most of his crew hail from central and southern Newfoundland. "It's a long way from home for my crew," says Fudge, whose work schedule consists of four days per week, 22 hours per day, which is further divided into two 11hour shifts. Presently operating in the Portage Southwest Lake area, his workers travel up to 400 kilometres one-way to get to camp.

Weather is a consideration in terms of planning harvest operations. "Making the best use of time in the bush is always a solid approach, but that's even more so when it comes to beating the unpredictable weather patterns in western Newfoundland," says Fudge. "Timing is important to any logging operation, especially in the first part of the year," he explains. "Although we don't usually have to worry about thaw until late March, the weather we have experienced since late February this year-mild temperatures and rain-has made it difficult to stay the course," he says. Temperatures have been so erratic that during one week in early March trucking had to be stopped altogether. "It's very difficult for buses and pickups and impossible for loaded haul trucks to operate," he says. In May of this year, the hauling operations were being conducted at night to take advantage of the lower temperatures.

With the increased emphasis on sound environmental performance and integrated resource management, the present harvest area has been deemed a winter area due to the sensitive ground conditions. The equipment Fudge employs with its six-wheel drive and balanced load distribution, coupled with the frozen ground covered by snow, keeps the amount of ground disturbance to a minimum.

Newfoundland, with its forest resource and geography, perhaps requires more of a well-thought out harvesting approach than other areas of Canada. "As a whole, 45 per cent of Newfoundland is forest area, compared to a much higher percentage in other provinces. Newfoundland features a lot of watershed areas and steep terrain," Fudge says. "The province is unique in every way, from boggy and loamy soil conditions to the type and size of the trees that grow here. Careful planning is critical for my long-term harvesting plans, not just my business plan," he says.

In conjunction with Abitibi Consolidated's Newfoundland Woodlands Division, Fudge Enterprises and other company contractors, Abitibi Consolidated has implemented an environmental management program. The key to the EMP process is a demonstration of responsibility for water, air, habitat, and soil integrity. Fudge has been able to accomplish this by instilling in his operators the proper operating procedures that minimize the impact of all aspects of logging on the environment.

The woodlands team that developed the landscape approach to the management of these forests, which are the core habitat for the endangered Newfoundland Pine Martin, received a Forest Stewardship Recognition Award for the system in 1998 under the National FSRP program sponsored by the federal government.

The Abitibi Consolidated program considers natural physical features, habitat requirements and bio-diversity issues, and balances these against harvesting and delivery of low-cost, high-quality raw material to the company's newsprint mill at Stephenville.

"The plan for the Southwest Lloyds cutting area is considered unique," says Don Brain, supervisor of planning and inventory for Abitibi Consolidated. "It far exceeds current guidelines. Locally this is seen as adaptive management that benefits habitat ." He added that without the commitment of contractors like Fudge and his company, Abitibi Consolidated would not have been able to achieve the progress it has made in maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem in Newfoundland.


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