Snowman Thin Harvesting team
develops an efficient thinning process
By Kurt Glaeseman
Just how steep is steep? On
Roseburg's Snowman Thin outside of McCloud, Calif., the drop can be as severe as
40 to 50 percent, but the harvest plan calls for thinning, so that's what John
Moriarty and the Violetti brothers are doing - in terrain that would have been
almost impossible to log fifty years ago. The Moriarty-Violetti combo have
developed a process that is quick and efficient, with an average of ten loads of
biomass a day headed to the chipping facility in Weed, where‚ salable logs are
separated from chip material. "With this steep ground, we can't get chip
trucks up here, so we're doing whole tree logging," says Mark Violetti, who
headquarters out of Red Bluff.
"We're in our third year with
this harvest plan, and we've proven we know how to hang on ." The plan
calls for general thinning of Doug fir, white fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine,
cedar and some oak. The Roseburg foresters have whitemarked trees they want
kept, and both Mark Violetti and John Moriarty agree that the loggers can work
easily with the Roseburg foresters' plans. "The 15 to 18 foot
spacing," says Violetti, "allows maximum growth and provides a measure
of fire suppression. When we leave an area, it's a clean, healthylooking forest
." The fouryear thinning project is scheduled to finish in 2001, with the
"new forest" showing a slightly higher proportion of white and Doug
Although there is a handfaller who
cuts targeted trees that are larger than 22 inches, most of the cutting is done
by Moriarty and his Timberjack 2618. He couldn't be more pleased with the
machine, which he has owned for five years. “I got it from George's Equipment
in Redding, who's been real good. If I were to buy another Timberjack, I'd buy
it from him,” says Moriarty. “I think this machine is one of the best ones
out there, and I've worked with several others. It has good visibility, and I
like the self-leveling system. The boom set is off-centered to the front; the
weight is down low, and we can access steeper ground. And there's almost zero
tail swing.” Moriarty maneuvers and dodges around the trees sporting the
Roseburg white marks.
The others he cuts, holds, moves
and places in a convenient bunch for the skidder. He trims brushy undergrowth,
and occasionally re-trims a stump so it does not exceed 12 inches. When he
zeroes in on a 110-foot fir, he drops it precisely into a prepared alley. Mark
Violetti grins: “I like watching this. It's like John is out here picking
flowers.” A long time resident of Shasta County, John Moriarty is following in
the footsteps of his grandfather, who was also a California logger.
John has driven logging trucks and
has cut chip material for cogen plants in Lassen, Shasta and Plumas counties. In
1995 he started doing the mechanized logging for the Violetti brothers. He is
obviously proud of his thinning work here for Roseburg. "It's been 40 years
since this stand has been touched. It truly needs thinning," says John.
"This is a great area to reeducate people who are worried about logging.
The guys did a good job of selecting and marking the trees.
Violetti beside a whitemarked tree (Save This Tree!) at
Snowman Thin on Roseburg forest.
When I get done, the stand looks
clean and good ." The bunched stems are taken by skidders to the landing -
Lee Sisk and Tom Brewster on D7G's and Leroy Agnew on a 528. Because the ground
is so steep, the skidders have chains. When they leave the landing, they pack
slash back out to the trails, which eliminates a huge pile of debris and returns
potential nutrients to the soil. Violetti estimates that in a year or two, the
slash will have decomposed and become a natural part of the forest floor. At the
landing Eric Taylor operates the Koehring 6630 log loader. He sorts, delimbs and
loads the stems onto logging trucks.
Moriarty pauses to comment on his satisfaction with the
Timberjack 2618 from George's Equipment in Redding. The
Timberjack 2618 can cut logs up to 22 inches and maneuvers
easily on rough terrain.
He tries to leave the stems as
long as possible, since they have to be reprocessed anyway when they get to the
chipping site in Weed. The Violettis have had the 1988 model Koehring since
1993, but they did purchase the Model 314 CTR new from Bill Williamson
(California Equipment) in Redding. The setup works well for them; Taylor can
quickly bundle the tops, sometimes grabbing a dozen of the smaller ones at a
time. "A good feature of this operation is that the combination stroke
delimber and loader eliminates a guy and allows us to have smaller landings
." says Violetti. With no one on the ground, it cuts down significantly the
potential for injuries to people ." Mark Violetti and his brother Gary grew
up in Santa Rosa and started trucking in 1979. In 1983 the brothers started
logging together out of Red Bluff - conventional logging with big logs.
But after the big Fountain Fire,
they converted to mechanical logging with delimbers and fellerbunchers and got
into the paper chip industry. Presently Brother Gary runs the chipping side at
the Weed mill. They have yet another operation going at Feather Falls, where
they are cutting tan oak into logs, paper chips, grinder fuel, and whole tree
chip fuel. At Snowman Thin there's an advantage to hauling out whole trees. They
can be stored and debarked according to a time schedule that is more compatible
with the market conditions. The Violettis have an older Timberjack C90 at the
mill in Weed. The log trucks dump the stems in rows, where they are sorted by
the Timberjack operator Ray Williams, who delimbs them and then puts
manufacturing logs into one pile and the rest into an area designated for the
A Cat 966C jockeys the chip
material up to the chipper - a Peterson Pacific DDC 5000. Although it is not
computerized, Gary Violetti keeps everything moving at a fast pace: "This
is easy for me. It's like driving a car. You just get used to it ." He's
being modest - it isn't all that easy. The grapple will take 22inch logs, but
the big cull logs can bog it down or stall it. The big Peterson chipper weighs
around 105,000 pounds and the V12 800 horsepower Cat engine can burn 20 gallons
of fuel per hour. It can't chip anything shorter than seven foot, as it can't
"grab" a shorter stem.
The debarking is done by two big
flail drums rotating with big chains. The hydraulic floor just keeps shoving the
material along, and the bark falls out into a waiting cavity. The central stem
hits a five-foot diameter chipping wheel, which sorts as it chips. All the
"undesirable" chips (usually too long and too large) go out the side
and eventually to the slash pile. The good chips are blown into a waiting van
(truck); under ideal conditions the 50,000 pound load is filled in 20 minutes.
There are two vans, so one is always either loading or hauling chips to the
mill. When they all shut down,
production slowed to almost nothing. But stockpiled mass in Weed kept the
chipper operation going.
Pacific DDC 5000 chipper puts out an average of ten loads
of 50,000 pounds each per day. The chipper reaches out to
"grab" smaller stems brought in by the Cat
the landing, Eric Taylor uses the Koehring 6630 for
sorting, stacking, and loading.
terrain requires use of chains on skidders
Violetti Brothers (Mark on left; Gary on right) at the
Weed chipping yard. Mount Shasta in background.
The Violettis like to average ten
loads of chips to the mill each day. The landing at the mill can remain active
longer than the logging site at Snowman Thin. Usually the logging site winds
down in January or February. With repeated freezing/ thawing cycles, the roads
get muddy and cut up, so work has to stop. Stopping the one side doesn't seem
like a major setback, but two years ago, the Violettis had three sides going at
once on the Snowman Thin.
Both Mark Violetti and John
Moriarty have enjoyed their work at Snowman. They are obviously proud of the
rejuvenated forest they will leave behind, but they also know their success is
partly due to the cooperative relationship they have with the Roseburg
personnel. Sometimes it is difficult to have a forester monitoring the day-to-day
logging, but Violetti and Moriarty actually like to see District Forester Dave
Hammonds out in the field with them. "Hey! We're all in this
together," says Violetti. "Forest owners, foresters, loggers, and the
whole industry have something to gain when we leave behind a new and healthy
Kurt received a Master's in
English at Stanford, and taught for 33 years in Sunnyvale and Willows, Calif.,
before becoming a freelance writer. He has written for a variety of Northwest
magazines, including Northwest Travel, Sports Afield, and Western Horseman.