July August 2005 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal
Meeting the Challenge
Weather and mountain pine beetle killed-wood are presenting some difficulties for BC interior loggers, but Quesnel's Claude Paquet and Clan Logging are proving they are up to the challenge.
By Jim Stirling
Weird weather is playing havoc with log harvesting plans in British Columbia's Cariboo country. Logging Contractors are used to taking the climatic vagaries of the season in strides. But it seems Mother Nature now has a whole new rule book. The conventional time of weather patterns is out the window. The strange and unexpected have become the norm.
Clan Logging Ltd.'s crew has just got back into a work rhythm after as unusaully short break-up. This was followed by a brief but intense period of hot, dry weather that forced the Ministry of Forests to serve notice on the Quesnel-based-contractor that operations might be shut down any moment because of forest fire risks. And this was in May—not July or August.
Down in the valleys and climbing the ridges of the Nazko country west of Quesnel lies vivid evidence of another weatherrelated anomaly. The mountain pine beetle has transformed the forest into a sea of red and grey trees. Successive mild winters allowed the beetle populations to explode, creating Canada’s worst forest health disaster. Logging contractors and forest companies have been forced to re-think their planning and harvesting strategies in the epidemic’s wake. It’s enough to make a logger’s head shake and cash flow shrink.
Claude Paquet is Clan Logging’s president and he has the experience not to admit to surprise about anything anymore. He’d been a faller in Quebec and New Brunswick before coming west to the Quesnel area about 35 years ago. It was 1970 when Paquet first worked in the forest that’s now dead and dying before his eyes. His knowledge of it is as intimate as the devastation by the beetles is tragic.
Back then, when the forests were green, he traded in his car—a Toyota—to help buy his first skidder, a Tree Farmer C7 line machine. By the time Clan Logging was formed in 1975, the skidder fleet had doubled and a Drott 40 feller buncher had been added. A family friend, and something of a clairvoyant, said they’d have better luck with a short name for a new company, recalls Paquet. A family summit around the kitchen table resulted in Clan Logging: C for Claude; L for his wife Liza; A for son Armand (who contracts two skidders to Clan) and N for daughter Nancy.
And the friend may have had a point about a short name being lucky. Clan Logging has grown, surviving the ups and downs through the years and now operates about 50 pieces of equipment of one description or another.
This year the company expects to log about 130,000 cubic metres for Canfor. It also works extensively with private wood and woodlot owners. The Canfor wood is—of course—beetle-killed timber harvested at cut-to-length roadside logging shows. Processing the bug-killed wood in the bush provides Canfor with the clean, defect-free, accurately measured logs it requires. “It’s very costly on the logging side compared with unprocessed long logs,” notes Paquet. “Production is down but the quality is up.”
The scope of the pine beetle epidemic and its alarming rate of spread has created shifting harvesting priorities. Earlier in the epidemic, harvesting efforts were directed at the leading edges of the beetle migration. The idea was to help slow the rate of infestation by harvesting green attack stands. But it didn’t work well because of the sheer volume of the problem.
Now the focus is on harvesting dead and dying trees left standing to get maximum value from them. For the logging contractor, that means less running around the countryside harvesting leading edge timber patches. “We can do better planning with bigger openings,” explains Paquet. “The wood has to come out now.”
Processed log lengths at the show Logging & Sawmilling Journal visited ranged from 10 feet four inches to 16 feet four inches in two-feet increments, with oversize material separated. “We get the lengths right, and ship quality logs to the mill,” says Paquet.
Clan Logging routinely achieves 97 per cent plus length accuracies, sufficient to regularly earn monthly recognition among Canfor’s regional logging contractors.
Two Madill 1800 processors with Waratah heads were the key machines producing the accurately measured lengths of bug-killed logs at the site. But to Paquet, producing top quality wood is a team effort. “It’s the bunchers, the skidders, the processors, the butt ‘n top loaders, everyone involved in the process,” he explains. “I like to do my job right and have very clean logging to keep Canfor and the forest service happy.”
Part of Paquet’s routine is to keep tabs on the logging operations as they proceed, and to do post-logging inspections to see if things can be done better in the future, he says. He encourages his operators to stop and seek guidance if they come across a situation where they’re not sure how they should best proceed. He tries to keep the same operators running the same machine and some of his employees have been working with him for up to 20 years.
The interior BC forest industry endured some tough times in the 1990s and they helped frame Paquet’s approach to buying equipment. “We ask what machine is most efficient at the best price to get the job done,” he summarizes.Clan Logging also runs company logging trucks, gravel trucks, lowbeds, does some site preparation and builds main and bush roads for Canfor.
Paquet and Clan Logging’s crews were
set to embark on a
new experiment during
The proposed tours are also a way of paying something back to the community.“We’d like to see tourists spend more time in Quesnel. We get most of our income from the forest here and we feel we should be involved,” he adds. Paquet says Clan Logging was looking for support in Quesnel to help underwrite the venture.He says the company will be responsible for supervision. Paquet says preliminary feedback to the proposal was predominantly positive. “It’ll be interesting to see how it develops,” he notes.
Paquet is already involved peripherally with his industry and community.
About two years ago, he began teaching a heavy equipment training program at the College of New Caledonia’s Quesnel campus. Recruiting and training people to work in the bush and haul logs is a growing challenge for the forest industry. A greying population is putting the squeeze on competition for skilled jobs across the board in BC. The College of New Caledonia initiative is a 60-hour course, with 40 hours of hands-on equipment experience. Paquet says it’s for anyone with or without a machine background and aims to put people to work and build their resumés through experience.
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