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May 2006 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

 

CONTRACTOR PROFILE

Cutting its own trail

BC’s Wadlegger Logging and Construction cuts its own trail in business, with a willingness and enthusiasm to tackle new logging and construction challenges.

By Jim Sterling

What helps differentiate Wadlegger Logging and Construction Ltd from other forest industry firms is its willingness and enthusiasm to tackle new horizons. “If there is a key to our success, it comes down to accepting any challenges that come our way. That’s not very profound, but it’s what we do,” points out Hans Wadlegger, who with brother, Sepp, runs the sawmill and logging enterprise.

Standing on their recently acquired 325C log loader (above) is Hans Wadlegger, on the left is Sepp Wadlegger and in the middle is Guido Claudepierre of Cat dealer, Finning.

“It’s exciting to start a new job, any job, and figure out how we can do it, how fast we can do it and how well we can do it,” he elaborates. “There’s always an option. Sepp and I don’t say no to anything, at least, not right off the bat.”

Wadlegger Logging and its associated companies are based at Clearwater, in the North Thompson region of the British Columbia Interior. Clearwater is a small town and that suits the Wadlegger clan just fine. It helps reinforce the positive sense of community with the 40 or so people employed by the Wadleggers in their mill and bush operations. “We’ve been very fortunate with having a very good work force here to help us do what we do,” Wadlegger says.

And what they do is just a little bit different. Consider the small sawmill and planer side, for example. Wadlegger Specialty Forest Products, a division of Wadlegger Logging, has found its niche cutting Douglas fir timbers. “Every size, for every customer,” says Wadlegger.

Finding the niche, spotting the opportunity, harkens back to 1965 when the brothers’ parents, Joe and Hazel Wadlegger, first came to the Clearwater area. It didn’t take long for Joe to identify a demand for railway ties and he started up a small sawmill to produce them.

Fast track 40 years, and filling customers’ needs remains the priority. A recent example filled by the Wadleggers was cutting Douglas fir timbers to exacting specifications for use as lock gates in Ontario. That’s the kind of order that keeps the mill humming.

It’s becoming a challenge to find mills that have access to fibre to cut products like lock gates, explains Wadlegger. “You need to have quality fibre to produce quality products, and we have a good wet-belt Douglas fir source here.” The wood grows slower than in the second growth Douglas fir on the BC coast, a competitor for the fibre type, he adds.

The Wadleggers employ brokers to ferret out markets for their Douglas fir timbers. It’s worked out well, says Wadlegger. The result is the 14-person strong mill crew seems to relish the chance of doing something different every day, he adds.

A recent interesting job for Wadlegger Logging involved doing site clearing for a helicopter skiing operation near Blue River, BC, including doing some glading work for the ski runs.

The same ability to adjust to different markets and opportunities is evident on the logging side. By way of background, Wadlegger Logging has no tenured wood. But it has developed solid working relationships with the two largest licensees in the region, Canfor Corporation and Interfor. Wadlegger Logging relies almost 100 per cent on the BC Timber Sales Program for its fibre, which it trades or sells to get the fibre it needs to run the sawmill. “Recently, we’ve been buying oversize Douglas fir from Canfor and that’s really helped us out,” says Wadlegger. The company was quick off the mark in the wake of the horrific McClure forest fire of 2003 that scorched about 35,000 hectares of forest land and destroyed 75 houses. They acquired timber sales to harvest the fire-damaged wood before it had time to check too badly and lose value.

Last year, Wadlegger Logging was involved in log salvage of a different kind. Vancouver Island-based Triton Logging used its Sawfish, a remote-operated logging submarine, to harvest timber under the Ootsa Lake reservoir in west central BC.

The huge reservoir was formed more than 50 years ago to create hydroelectric power generation capacity for Alcan Inc’s aluminium smelting operation in Kitimat.

Triton needed a machine to sit on a barge and retrieve, deck and buck timber harvested by Sawfish from the submerged forest and corralled on the lake’s surface by a boom boat, recalls Wadlegger. He assigned his Cat 320C equipped with an IMAC power grapple to get the job done. “It was low impact harvesting and a really neat project,” he notes.

The BC government’s timber sales program has worked well for the Wadleggers. Most of the sales are in the 20,000 cubic metre range, which they have ample equipment capacity to bid on.

They switched gears and altitudes on another recent job. Mike Wiegele’s helicopter skiing operation near Blue River, north of Clearwater, had some specific requirements. Some were relatively routine— like site clearing—but work on the ski runs themselves became more interesting. Wadlegger used his TK 732 feller buncher equipped with a 22-inch Gilbert head to do some glading work. That involves taking out selected smaller trees and leaving the larger stems for skiers to swoosh in and out of, explains Wadlegger. Equipping the machine with a modified buncher head from Quadco can also remove small trees, but has the added ability to mulch and grind stumps down to a wood chip residue. “We haven’t done much of that yet but we will be doing more,” he reports.

The Wadleggers have been looking at another project in the Blue River area: support work for run-of-the-river microenergy producers. The job would entail building road access and face for the pipe work in difficult terrain, says Wadlegger. That’s their kind of project.

Caterpillar is proving to be the Wadlegger’s kind of equipment to handle the company’s varied projects. The brothers have recently acquired a Cat 325C log loader; a 325 roadbuilder and two 535B grapple skidders through Finning, the Caterpillar dealer. The new equipment joins other Cat machines in the fleet including a 325C FM powerclam road builder; a 330B roadbuilder and a 320C powerclam road builder. “I never want to dump on other equipment manufacturers but Finning makes it very difficult to leave them with their emphasis on the Cat customer,” says Wadlegger. “We’re very happy with them.”

The Caterpillar 325C log loader at work (above). Cat has proved to be the equipment of choice for the Wadleggers. In addition to the log loader, they have two 535B grapple skidders and a variety of Cat roadbuilders.

There are other practical considerations as well. “For us, being in a relatively remote location, if we have a problem, it helps having a more standardized equipment fleet,” he explains. That way they can get more bang from their servicing buck. The Wadleggers also acquired a used buncher through Finning that they “share” with another company. “It fills a gap for both of us,” he adds.

The provincial government’s timber sales program has worked well for the Wadleggers. Many of the sales contain significant proportions of off-grade mountain pine beetle-infested wood. And most of the sales are in the plus or minus 20,000 cubic metre range, which Wadlegger has ample capacity to bid on.

“It does concern me with the smaller contractors. I feel having them in our industry is pretty important,” he says, adding the money they spend on their businesses tends to stay more in the local communities. “The salvage program is there for them but there are challenges with it. I think it’s important to keep all sectors of the industry going.”

Wadlegger practises what he preaches within his own companies. “We’ve been able to work close to year ‘round. Our people are home at night with their families. It’s not always about the money, it’s about the work environment,” he observes.

 


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