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--  Harvesting  --

Team Players

Two Manitoba contracting operations team up to tackle a tough harvest block for Louisiana-Pacific.

By John Dietz

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Logging contractor Vic Slyziuk (above, right) and son Brad. Bigger contracts have brought about changes to his operation, including additional new equipment, such as a new John Deere 648 G-ll. "If you have the volume, you can afford the equipment. Timing is so critical here, you can’t afford to be fixing."

Logging contractors Sylvester and Everett Puchailo and Vic Slyziuk were all smiles at a recent banquet in Swan River, Manitoba, and with perfect reason—the three neighbours were receiving an award they had worked hard for three years to earn.

Slyziuk and Puchailo Brothers Logging were presented with the 1998-99 logging season Environmental Award from Louisiana-Pacific for their work in Forest Management License Area 3, in northwestern Manitoba.

This is the third such award presented by L-P since the company built its oriented stand board (OSB) plant at Minitonas, Manitoba, in 1996. Rick Bobby, L-P woodlands superintendent, says the independent contractors always work together, but the award formally recognizes a willingness to co-operate in sustainable, environmentally-friendly logging practices.

A few weeks earlier, this team completed one of the most difficult poplar harvesting contracts yet offered by L-P in Manitoba. Using new skidders and Super-B’s, the contractors moved into Porcupine Mountains Provincial Forest, north of Swan River, to harvest some of the best poplar in northwest Manitoba. The contract took approximately six weeks to complete.

"As Forest Management License holders, we’re under a microscope. We have to be sure everything is managed properly, and these guys are excellent," says Bobby. That means doing good road work, clean camps, removing garbage and used oil to approved sites, working around wet areas while minimizing soil disturbance, avoiding disturbance to natural water flow, avoiding large debris piles, working in small landings at roadside and maximizing utilization of harvested timber.

Slyziuk and the Puchailo Brothers started with two contracts for about 20,000 tons of poplar while L-P was building its new mill. Slyziuk had been clearing land for farming for 20 years, but had never harvested timber. The Puchailos, though, had 30 years of bush experience working for mills.

Each year, the contractors have met their L-P contracts and been given more volume. They’ve also upgraded quickly to new harvesting equipment and now provide their own hauling. They harvested more than 100,000 tons of hardwood and softwood in the past season, working nine months in the bush.

Slyziuk started his first 6,000-ton contract for L-P with an old John Deere 648-D skidder and a 643 rubber-tired feller buncher about five years ago, after a slowdown in land clearing and road work. It was a new experience for him, harvesting trees rather than dozing and piling, but he needed the contract and he enjoyed the change.

harvesting2.jpg (48545 bytes)The Puchailo brothers had been busy in the bush for many winters, using two slashers on contracts for various mills.

In the winter of 1996-97, the neighbors decided to apply together for L-P contracts. "We had the dozers and they had two slashers, so we thought we’d see how it would work if we went together on a contract," Slyziuk recalls.

They landed 18,000 tons of quota. Slyziuk’s first step was to buy a new Deere 648 G skidder to ease his biggest headache: fixing used equipment. "When they doubled our contract, we figured it was feasible to try one new skidder. It worked, and six months later we traded an old skidder for another new 648 G," he says. "It doubled the volume of wood we could handle.

" Bigger contracts have brought about more changes. "If you have the volume, you can afford the equipment. Timing is so critical here that you can’t afford to be fixing. Now, the guys get in the machine in the morning and just work all day, instead of working for half and fixing for half." The 1997-98 contract was bigger again. Slyziuk changed to a new Tigercat 845 feller buncher for faster, repair-free production.

Early in 1999, Slyziuk added a third skidder, a new Deere 648 G-II series. His con-tracts, shared with the Puchailos, had climbed to 90,000 tonnes of poplar and 20,000 tonnes of spruce.

The Puchailo Brothers also needed an upgrade to meet the expanding contracts. They replaced two older Tanguay 100 slashers with two 1995 Tanguay 125 slashers in 1997. At the same time, they purchased a 1992 Deere 690 log loader with a 5/8th clam for loading short wood.

The contractors soon had trouble meeting delivery schedules on the transportation end. They solved that problem with new Deopker Super-B logging trailers specialized for hauling short wood, six 1998 Western Star trucks and two late model Kenworth trucks. Last winter, they were on schedule and averaging 20 trips a day to the Minitonas mill, about 100 miles from their cutting sites.

The Puchailo brothers today are part of an 11-man crew that includes four slasher operators, four truck drivers and a loader operator. The 14-man Slyziuk crew includes Vic, his son Brad, four truck drivers, three skidder operators, one feller buncher operator, four chain saw operators and one part-time bulldozer operator.

As the crew grew, Slyziuk trained new operators and added a camp site setup with vans and trailers. The contractors try to operate with a five-day week, finishing work at 5 p.m. Friday. Some men are able to go home every night; others stay at the camp.

"The five-day week helps with morale," Brad Slyziuk commented. "They know they’re going home Friday night and have the weekend, so they’re refreshed for Monday."

Last winter, Slyziuk and Puchailo Brothers had the right combination of equipment, skills and forestry technique to take on one of L-P’s most difficult harvest blocks north of Swan River. Nothing was easy about the assignment. The site was an 80-hectare maze of hogbacks with slopes up to 70 per cent. Typical slopes were 30 per cent and covered short 30- to 40-metre distances. Topography rose by 500 metres in just two kilometres.

A previous attempt to log in the area had produced one kilometre of road into the site. Slyziuk’s skidders made another kilometre of roadway, and added gravel. They had to follow around sloughs and the bottoms of hills. They had to cut hills, as deep as six feet, jumping from slough to slough so the Super-Bs could leave with-out climbing. In the end, only about 10 loaded trucks needed a skidder-assist when the road became soft.

Their newest skidder, the 648 G-II, was broken-in on the rugged slopes and made a big difference in the operation, said Slyziuk. The operator obtained higher production by having seven reverse gears, eight forward gears, much smoother modulated steering and an air-ride seat. The machine also has a little more engine power, heavier axles and larger grapple.

Building large landing areas for slashing and loading was impossible. The few that could be built along a kilometre of roadway were narrow and close to the road. They were used as often as four times, with a procedure of fill, empty and re-fill. Some were only long enough for two trucks, one behind the other. Instead of big turn-arounds at the road end, the crew made loops.

As landings were re-filled, skids became longer, with the longest about 600 metres. All three skidders were kept busy.

The Tigercat 845 went in to begin cut-ting a week ahead of the two slashers. Slasher operators alternated 12-hour shifts until the job was done. Working conditions were extremely tight.

First cuts required lifting, turning, delimbing, piling and later slashing the 100-foot poplar adjacent to the road, and without blocking it. The buncher tackled steep areas by going in once and cutting as high as it could reach. Skidders would pull out all that wood, then the buncher would come back and go farther up slope.

In the end, the crew harvested 10,000 metres of hardwood and 4,000 metres of softwood at the Mafeking site. Only 12 per-cent of the area was left unlogged. "We got lucky," says Slyziuk. "It was a very steep grade coming out of there, but the weather was right. We got the job done, and we didn’t have to go back."

Slyziuk credits supervisors in the cut-block with helping meet the environmental guidelines, and the minute-by-minute decisions of operators. "The L-P supervisor explains what they want done in the bush, and what has to be left for the environment. They’re doing a good job of it. They’re easy to listen to and easy to get along with," he said.

Attitude on the part of his feller buncher operator and skidder operators plays a big role. They must comply with L-P’s standard operating procedures. For instance, the buncher operator needs to leave eight to 12 wildlife trees per hectare in each species. The skidder operator needs to avoid disturbing soft areas.

"We do the finishing touches," says Sylvester Puchailo. "We make sure the wood is presentable to L-P, and that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is happy with the utilization. We have to be very careful."

Pride in workmanship is critical. "Our production could be a lot faster, or we could waste a lot more wood, if we didn’t take out the crooks," Puchailo says. When the slasher operator spots a crooked log, he takes a bit more time to cut that log with minimum waste.

Meeting the regulations does have a pay-off, Puchailo notes. "Everybody has a say in our work. DNR officers have a last inspection of the block. Until it’s approved by them, L-P has a three per cent holdback on our contract. If the DNR isn’t happy and we have to go back to clean up properly, that costs you money. We try to do it right the first time."

But there’s more to it than that. "We’ve got to address these issues if we want to survive as contractors, and if we want the same atmosphere for the next generation. Once you adapt to good habits and follow the regulations, it’s not a problem. I think it’s easier. It comes down to having pride in your-self and in your work," Puchailo said.

 


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