Capitalizing on Forestry Consultants
Pacific Forest Consultants utilizes logging contractors to harvest and implement its forest management plans
By Jeff Mullins
What do logging contractors have in common with an electric company, a grounded oil tanker and a small municipality? Pacific Forest Consultants of Newberg, Ore.
Portland General Electric hired Pacific to facilitate harvesting/clearing a power line easement. When the state of Alaska reached a settlement for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Pacific assessed timberlands for wildlife habitat and the city of Rainier, Ore. entrusted management of its 1,400 acres of forested watershed to Pacific.
Full Time Forester — Part Time Price
Forestry consultants obviously provide valuable services for their clients. For timberland owners whose primary business is not forestry, Pacific draws upon its broad knowledge of forestry practices, timber markets and available operators to accomplish the clients’ management goals in the most cost-effective and efficient way. Owner Tim Manley says, “Corporations and municipalities can neither afford to hire a full time forester, nor can they risk mismanaging their timber assets. Pacific provides the expertise they need, but only for the duration that they need it and at a fraction of the cost.”
Logger’s Blessed Buffer
Some may consider forestry consultants to be unnecessary middlemen. But Tim contends he plays a vital role between essentially uniformed timber holders and harvesting contractors. Everyone wins when the logger has a contact who understands harvesting practices. It allows him to do his job while the consultant deals with the bureaucrats’ questions and concerns that otherwise could slow or even stop work. Additionally, the consultant is an independent third party being paid to look out for the client’s interests so Tim’s recommendations are often more readily accepted even though they may be the same as those the operator would make.
Prior to the logger’s arrival, the consultant has helped the client make decisions to clearly identify the scope and type of harvest. Tim says, “I first determine the client’s goals and then develop a management plan to accomplish them.” Without the consultant’s involvement, the logger may waste time and effort developing a plan as part of an unsuccessful bidding process.
With expertise in appraising, cruising, GIS mapping, land development, reforestation, markets and other areas, a logger can increase a potentially skeptical customer’s confidence and satisfaction by referring a landowner to an independent consultant prior to harvesting.
Consultant’s Short List
Pacific works for its clients and not for loggers. However Tim readily admits that using conscientious logging contractors who will perform according to the contract is in his client’s best interest and makes his job easier too.
“Frequently I am in the position to hire a contractor rather than put the job out for bid,” says Tim. “I choose loggers I can trust to do the job right and need minimal supervision. Every day I have to spend on the job site costs my client the equivalent of a load of logs so if I hire a trustworthy contractor it saves money and makes for happy clients.”
Although preference is given to contractors proven on prior jobs, Tim says he frequently evaluates additional operators to add to his list. This is partly because he prefers the better value local operators can offer due to less travel expense and partly because his good operators are busy. Since Tim’s own reputation is on the line each time he hires a logger, his evaluation is purposeful and in-depth.
In addition to getting the general “buzz,” Tim considers state-issued awards and citations, conducts informal consultations with log buyers, and queries people “in the know.” He says, “A site walk and discussion reveals a lot about the operator.” Tim insists that contractors with a good reputation can find themselves on consultants’ short list.
A Member of the Team
Tim humbly admits he is always learning from loggers. “It is important that the operator be a good communicator and have some basic social skills,” he says. “If someone suggests to me a better way, I am all ears and often I will follow his recommendations.” The worst thing a contractor can do is to cut corners without explaining or to run around a problem without talking about it.
While acknowledging some agencies take an adversarial stance toward contractors, Tim emphasizes that independent consultants should be considered part of the team, not the enemy. Tim adds, “I want to help the contractor succeed and do the best possible job for my client. Too often easy solutions are lost in the haze.”
Tim sees a continuing trend toward computerization and fine-tuning of mechanized logging operations. Although the market is currently in an upswing, he anticipates a general downward trend in the days ahead. Consolidation of timberland ownership will constrict the seller’s market and also squeeze contractors as fewer log buyers will be competing for available fiber.
He concludes, “It is no secret what contractors need to do in the future to survive. They need to be as efficient and productive as they can.”