July August, 2004





A Towering Solution

Three companies use tower logging to tackle the terrain and to hit environmental goals

By Clay Clayton

Machinery must have the power, quickness, and versatility to work in a small area at high production levels.

The terrain found on the Northwest Coast and extending up into Southwest British Columbia is considered to be some of the most difficult in the world to harvest. The timber must be harvested for social, economic, and forest health reasons and with also a good deal of environmental sensitivity in mind. In Northwest Oregon three firms, F & B Logging, Gustafson Logging Company, and Morisse Logging, Inc., are examples of some of the best the industry has to offer in providing productivity to the customer while still paying close attention to the needs of the environment they work in.

And while each of the three firms uses ground based harvest techniques, when appropriate, the three firms are best known for their use of tower logging technologies. The basic technique of tower logging is as old as logging in the Northwest.  It’s especially suited for steep slopes where ground machines cannot access the harvested trees or where there is need to avoid excessive ground disturbance. In fact, the technique offers so much flexibility in harvesting in and near environmentally sensitive areas that, according to industry pundits, even flat land loggers are beginning to bring towers onto the landscape.

The Right Set of Iron Aparticular key to successful tower logging, according to experts like Clay Gustafson, a co-owner along with his dad and siblings of Gustafson Logging Company, is the equipment chosen for the operation. "Our company looks for the best iron has to offer," Clay comments. "We're looking for compactness, quick set up and take down times, and rapid turns. A company doesn't make money setting up and dismantling and it doesn't make money doing road changes. You make money maximizing your turns. My dad's philosophy has always been to refine your technology.

Equipment purpose-built for harvesting features high swing torque and the speed needed to handle merchandising, delimbing, forwarding, loading, and all the other task a modern operation demands of a machine.

Cables haven't changed that much in a hundred years and roads haven't changed all that much either. The yarders, the delimbers, and the loaders are the tools that have driven change in our business. We look to bring the best tools to our landings then maximize our use of those tools." Pointing to the machinery his firm has on the ground, Clay says it represents some of the most advanced equipment ever put into a forest harvest situation. Both the Gustafson yarder sides have Boman Mark 3 motorized carriages, Madill 172 tower yarders, and Pierce 3348 delimbers mounted on Link-Belt carriers as the core machines for accumulation and processing of the logs. For loading and other landing tasks, one side features a Link-Belt 290LX Log Loader with a Pierce boom and riser while the other side uses a Jewell boom and riser mounted on a John Deere carriage. F & B and Morisse utilize similar equipment in their operations.

F & B's tower side includes a 172 Madill Yarder supported by a 240 LX Link-Belt with a Pierce delimbers mounted aboard. A Link-Belt 4300 loader is used to merchandise logs and to load trucks. A D7E tail hold Caterpillar is kept for miscellaneous work around the site. Morisse Logging Inc., runs two tower sides. Each is anchored by TTY 70 Thunderbird Yarders. Boman Carriages fitted with electronic chokers transport tree stems from stump to landing. At the landing a 2002 Link Belt 240LXTL platform with a Denharco Delimber mounted aboard delimbs on one landing while a Cat with a Pierce Delimber is used on the second side. Loading is accomplished on the first side utilizing a 2002 Link Belt 290LXTL loader. A 2000 vintage 325BF Cat Loader rounds out the major equipment on the second side. The reliance on Link-Belt, Boman, Madill, and Pierce on his own tower sides as well as those of his peers is no accident, according to Clay Gustafson.

He points to the Link-Belt machines his firm uses for delimbing and loading by way of example. Link-Belt, Clay says, has established itself as force in the Oregon forests because their equipment is purpose-built for forestry with the combination of weight, swing torque, and horsepower that's proven critical to successful harvests in the region built into the machines. "The rugged terrain of the coast range dictates the type of logging we do," he points out. "The terrain, the size and species of the trees we harvest, and the need to operate on constrained landings dictates the specific equipment that works best to accomplish that harvest."

Keeping up with technology That doesn't mean, Clay continues, that his company, or any other, is married to the equipment brand they run on their sides. "Once we've purchased a piece of equipment like a Link-Belt, it's a cost advantage to us to trade to another Link-Belt when a substantially improved machine is available," he comments. "When a product line improves itself like Link-Belt did with the LX series, we can see a definite advantage for us over what we had before so we move up. If, on the other hand, they were to get complacent and fall behind, the advantage to us is lost and we'd have to say, ‘See you. You're history.' We look for the best and, so far, they've been that." The same is true, Clay concludes, of the Madill towers, Boman carriages, and Pierce delimbers the company uses.

Talented crew & supportive dealer vital While the best in machinery will allow a firm to maximize production, Steve Morisse points to his employees and the back up provided by his equipment dealer as being equally important to his firm's operation. "Our employees are our most valuable commodity," he says. "We are successful because of them. Logging is an exhausting and dangerous profession, and it becomes harder everyday to find the right caliber person to fill many of our positions. We've been fortunate to have some of the most dedicated and respected hard working people in the industry working for us. Some are lifelong loggers, whose talents we've had for many years, and others are young and eager to climb those hills everyday despite the weather.

They are all friends to each other and work together as a family. In the end, it's the team work and communication within our entire outfit that demonstrates our ability to be very productive and successful." And the dealer? "Equipment is only as good as the dealer that backs it up and the manufacturer's warranty that covers it," Steve says. "Equipment companies must respond immediately to breakdowns! When a machine breaks down, I need to have a mechanic on the job immediately, and parts available for repairs. It's extremely important to keep wood flowing at an even pace, day in and out, and minimize any down time to be competitive in today's market." Environmentalism is paid more than lip service by the timber community in the coastal communities.

The men and women harvesting the timber today are not only some of the most skilled contractors in the world, they are also dedicated as a group to harvesting the forests they've been entrusted with in ways ensuring habitat and regrowth for succeeding generations. While not the only reason tower logging has seen a resurgence in the Northwest in recent years, the environmental emphasis progressive contractors have built into their operations in the past several decades is certainly one important driver for the technology. Don Falleur, a founding owner of F & B Logging, speaks for many of his peers when he says, "I've got grand-kids to leave this land to after I'm gone. I want them to enjoy everything I've enjoyed here myself so it's important to me to leave the land in as good or better condition than I found it. The technology we're using on our tower sides helps us assure we're doing just that.


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This page was last updated on Tuesday, November 02, 2004