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Brian Zumwalt loads a mule train using his rubber tired LB 3400 shovel.

Zumwalt Timber Company Inc. uses traditional equipment without compromising environmental concerns

By Jeff Mullins

With terms like “environmental consciousness” and “low ground impact” being thrown around, one might anticipate raised eyebrows as Brian Zumwalt admits that traditional skidders are a vital element in his logging operation. But, contrary to first impressions, Zumwalt Timber Company, Inc. of Myrtle Point, Ore., demonstrates an uncommon knack for optimizing performance by matching technology to task without sacrificing environmental concerns.

As a contractor for Plum Creek Timber, Zumwalt contributes year round to a management strategy on the leading edge of sustainable forest practices. Defying standard classifications, Zumwalt could be considered a “specialty logging operation” that performs an array of tasks on the periphery of mainstream production.

Brian says, “Special tasks require special considerations and sometimes that means using traditional equipment in non-traditional ways.” He insists the key is using the right equipment for the job and conditions, not whether the equipment is modern or traditional.


Plum Creek Project

When TimberWest magazine visited, Zumwalt was opening an area that had not been touched in approximately thirty years. Plum Creek, owner of 8.2 million acres of timberland nationwide, and 185,000 acres in the Coos Bay district, wanted to reestablish access for safety, fire suppression, and fertilization. Zumwalt’s task was to “open up the roads” and establish a stable corridor along both sides of the road that would maximize access and minimize future maintenance requirements — a hybrid thinning-road maintenance operation.

The rubber tired HTL 300 Hahn Harvester knuckle boom processor adds flexibility to Zumwalt’s operation.


Roadwork & Thinning

Zumwalt calls on a D-6 Cat for heavy pushing and manipulating rock in pits. A 966 loader and JCB backhoe, along with a subcontracted grader and dump truck, contribute to the roadwork. For lighter grading, spreading gravel, and plowing snow, they use three Cat 518 skidders, modified to extend the blades to the outside width of the tires. Brian says, “The extension of the skidder blades, by about a foot, makes them a versatile, fast, and effective tool for road work, but does not diminish their designed skidding capability.”

The access project included commercially thinning a corridor approximately 100 feet on each side of the road. The tight stand of trees along the road’s edge tended to lean toward the road seeking more light and space. Stems closest to the road projected many heavy “full growth” branches into the roadways. As winter snow increased, unbalanced masses of trees had toppled into the roadway.

Thinning close to the road will prevent snow accumulation on the tree tops. The spacing will also allow flexibility, without pushing on adjacent stems. By removing smaller, weaker trees, the remaining stems will be less susceptible to being uprooted. Not only will roads be accessible when project is complete, but they will stay accessible with minimal maintenance.

Jay Workman operates a 518 Grapple Cat skidder with extended blade used by Zumwalt to clear roadways and yard logs.


Challenges along the way

Thinning only a narrow corridor made using even a small swing yarder or “yoder” impractical. The final stem density goals limited maneuvering equipment within the stand. Landings were few and far between, so most logs had to be processed, decked, and loaded at the narrow road’s edge where space was constricted. Finally, everything needed to be accomplished without tearing up the road surface or scarring remaining trees.

To overcome these obstacles, Zumwalt matched equipment to the task. Paul Lurhs, Zumwalt’s contract cutter, hand felled trees perpendicular to, and away from, the roads. Where feasible, a 3400 Link-Belt shovel extracted full-length stems with surgical precision, decking them beside the road.

Bret Workman uses Zumwalt’s track mounted Link-Belt 3400 shovel to deck logs along roadway.

Much of the yarding required the Cat 518 rubber-tired skidders to gather stems utilizing grapples or winches. When direct pulls of full-length trees would potentially damage standing stems, logs were bucked prior to retrieving the fiber. Jay Workman, one skidder operator, used the machine’s blade to “heap up” the small decks to optimize use of limited space.

Stems were processed by a Pierce PTH24 dangle head, mounted on a Thunderbird 840 platform as operator Justine Berger moved it from deck to deck. Bret Workman shadowed the processor with a Link-Belt 3400 shovel, clearing logs and placing them in pulp and saw log decks. He also cleared debris from the road, freeing the dangle head from all tasks but what it does best, manufacturing logs. Rounding out the operation is a versatile and highly mobile, rubber-tired, carriage-mounted 3400 Link-Belt shovel loader. When not speeding from small deck to small deck to load trucks, Brian uses the rubbertired shovel to speed the overall operation by assisting with decking, cleaning up, or consolidating decks. An HTC 300 Hahn Harvester stands ready as a backup processor and is utilized on jobs with large landings where many stems are accumulated.


Effective Fiber Utilization

Eric Gerke, manager of harvesting and roads for Plum Creek, asserts that Zumwalt’s equipment choices net the greatest utilization of fiber, while accomplishing the company’s objectives in the most efficient manner possible. Eric says, “Brian looks out for the best interest of the company by using the fast skidders and the rubbertired Link-Belt shovel to minimize wear and tear to the roads.” Brian adds, “We also use the shovels to knock off overhanging branches to increase light and air to dry out the roads.” Although this is not required by the contract, it is typical of the way Zumwalt’s professionalism contributes to a mutually satisfying relationship with Plum Creek.


Additional Zumwalt Specialties

A second area of specialty work is the clearing of new right-of-ways. Typically, another contractor will fell the timber and Zumwalt’s own lowboy will deliver shovels and processors to finish merchandising the logs.

In the summer, salvaging blow down along the edges of clearcuts and in standing timber, is a priority. Special care is required to remove the fiber without damaging standing trees. Gerke says “Zumwalt’s crew is safety conscious and his Cat skidders are able to move about on narrow skid roads with minimal impact on the ground or standing trees.”


Lessons Learned

Brian Zumwalt loads a mule train using his rubber tired mounted LB 3400 shovel to load a mule train.

“One thing I learned on this job is that a smaller processor would be more efficient, in the limited space available, to complete this type of road side thinning,” says Brian. Consequently, he is eyeing a Link-Belt 2400 platform with a matched size Waratah processor. “My choice of the processor is based on advice, especially of mechanics, but choosing a Link-Belt is based on my own experience. My rubber-tired 3400 is 28 years old and the track machine is 16 years old. I have used them 5-6 days a week for all these years and they just keep going.”


Running the Company

Brian currently spends about 70 percent of his time operating machinery and about 30 percent managing the operation. Brian’s wife, Kathy, half owner in the business, does all the books, taxes, and payroll for the company. It helps that her day job is financial planning. Brian credits his success to a crew who “takes the job to heart.”

Like many others, Zumwalt Logging is conscientious, reliable, and productive, but what sets this company apart, is the ability to optimize performance, by matching technology to task, without sacrificing environmental concerns.




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This page was last updated on Tuesday, April 17, 2007