Logging and Sawmilling Information for the Western United States
November 2000 - Volume 25 Number 11
Little Horse Peak Research Project
One piece of land - multiple methods of management
It isn't exactly a shabby view: The snowy slopes of Mount Shasta loom to the southwest; the orderly fields of Butte Valley's nursery strawberries lie to the northwest; and thousands of acres of fir and pine stretch eastward from the village of Tennant. Researchers and loggers don't complain. They may have to drive south to Weed or north to Klamath Falls for accommodations, but they work in some of the finest scenery Northern California has to offer. That's a definite bonus when groups that haven't always been compatible are brought together for this vast adaptive and management area Research Sale developed by the U. S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Experiment Station in Redding and the Goosenest Ranger District out of Macdoel. It's an 18 million foot sale purchased by Columbia Plywood in Klamath Falls, and it's concurrently a long-term (50 year) project offering research opportunities to groups interested in silviculture, fire management, low impact logging, lumber improvement, range conservation, fuels management, fire ecology, entomology, botany, wildlife biology, and a host of others. In other words, it's a project under major scrutiny.
The official name of this long-term ecological study is Little Horse Peak Research Project in the Goosenest Adaptive Management Area (GAMA). It was stimulated in part by interest in what is called "PreEuropean Forests," which in this area featured late successional ponderosa pine in fairly open, park like conditions. But over the years, the look of the forest has changed. Fire suppression and preferential cutting of pine have left dense stands of trees with a high proportion of white fir. The resulting fuel buildup has led to high fire hazard, jeopardizing remaining late successional forest stands and the habitat they provide. The resulting interest in active management to accelerate development of this late successional forest is not new, but as management plans began to develop, many questions were raised about the ecological responses to such activities.
The Little Horse Peak Research Project set out four differing treatment alternatives and objectives:
1. Accelerate late successional pine - without using fire. This would call for the preferential removal of white fir to enhance growth on fewer trees, thus changing the species composition to 80 percent pine. The proportion of pine would be increased even more by removing clumps of decadent white fir and regenerating with pine. There would be no prescribed fire.
Collaborators on this project include Pacific Southwest Research Station, Humboldt State University, Oregon State University, Region 5 of Klamath National Forest, Wildlife Conservation Society, and other groups or individuals with an interest in forestry management. The project is a prime source for graduate theses and general research in plant, fire, and wildlife ecology and forest entomology. What makes the project so inviting is the careful maintenance of dissimilar treatments set up next to control units. The situation is tailor-made for constant observation and evaluation. It also presents some challenges to loggers. Tom Fogarty, Forester for Columbia Plywood and Bob Carlson, Timber Sale Administrator for the USFS, have worked together several years to develop the project according to the EA (Environmental Assessment) and the terms of the sale. The logistics are staggering.
The area was divided into 20 units of 160 acres each. Fifteen were made cutting units and five permanent plots were left as controls. Of the cutting units, only about 100 acres were actually designated for cutting, since a 300 foot buffer zone was left as the perimeter of each unit. And then the cutting units were further divided into the three treatment classifications, each with very definite prescriptions. Both Fogarty and Carlson laugh a little at the old-fashioned sale term of 18 million feet. In actuality this sale is measured by the green ton, and everything is merchantable. The clean chips, the hog fuel, the lumber are all sold at the same price. No salvage, sanitation, or fuel wood is permitted. Fine slash generated by the operation is returned to the forest floor, usually on skidder trails. The success of the project depends on the surveillance and cooperation of both the Forest Service and the logging operators. After three years of work, the spirit of congenial cooperation still runs high.
Carlson runs a tight ship. He knows the terms of the sale and the objectives established by the Forest Service. He monitors constantly and he isn't shy about suggestions for closer performance. But he obviously likes the crews and enjoys working with them, "These loggers are great to work with. The Putnams and Gordon are both highclass operators. They care. It's actually fun to come out and watch the work and check the units and hear their reactions. I think we all realize this is some of the best growing timber soil and the best logging in the world. By keeping the same loggers in this three-year project, we remain consistent; we take the variability out of logging.
The Forest Service and the loggers are doing a lot of PR to let people know our good work - we clean up the forest so it won't burn." Columbia Plywood bought the sale in 1997, and today the logging operation is nearing completion. The major players, under the direction of Fogarty and Carlson, have meshed their work smoothly into the master plan. These operators are Leonard and Gary Putnam (Cascade Timber Company) of Klamath Falls, Oregon; Gordon Westigard (G & S Logging) of Rogue River, Oregon, and Tom Harmon Logging of LaPine, Oregon. Ponderosa pine and white fir make up the majority of the trees in this project. The pine is taken to Thomas Lumber in Klamath Falls and to Ochoco in Prineville. White fir is hauled to Columbia Plywood, where it is used as core material for hardwood products. Hog fuel chips go to Wheelabrator, a cogeneration plant in Anderson, California. Clean chips end up in Medford, where they are used in particle board, or they are sold by Tom Harmon to different pulp mills. When the logging started, the original plan was to have several small landings per unit, but this was not workable - there simply was not enough room to get the job done and avoid ecological disturbances. So two large processing landings were created outside the units, in two natural openings.
G & S Logging and Cascade Timber Company work right across the road from each other. Here tree length loads are unloaded, delimbed, cut and stacked or loaded onto log trucks for hauling. Because the plan called for the removal of trees down to a two-inch diameter, there are a lot of tops and submerch trees to be chipped. A marking crew had prepped the sale, choosing dominant and co dominant trees to save. The machinery used by the two companies differs substantially. Greg Cox, from the Cascade Timber Company, likes his Timbco T445C HydroBuncher, "It's excellent. It's got a head that can tilt to handle trees that are leaning." He cuts down to a 4inch dbh and up to an 18inch dbh, leaving anything over 18 inches to the handfallers. Cox maneuvers around the marked trees, lines up the circular saw, shears a tree, and places it into a bundle of other trees to be sorted later by species.
Pape Brothers supplies Cox skidders - a CAT 528 and CAT 525. Everything has to come into the back of the landing so it can be loaded onto hayracks, and then small slash and dirt is bundled by the skidder and hauled out and spread onto the skid trails. This helps control erosion and solves the problem of having excess slash in the landings. The newer CAT 525, with its wider tires, reduces ground pressure in sensitive areas. Marion Cain, who runs the 528 skidder remarks on the process, "This is a good machine. It gets in pretty good and turns nice, which is important. The area is stumpy, and we have to watch that we don't skin up the trees that are left." Bob Copper runs the Komatsu PC200 loader, a machine that Putnam is very pleased with. "Our Komatsus run flawless," says Putnam. "We have had very few problems with them. I appreciate that because with all the new machinery being developed, no dealer can possibly stock all the parts. The dealer at Pacific North has been great."
The Putnams have their own fleet of trucks: two hayracks (a Mack and a Kenworth), five highway trucks (all Kenworths) and a Kenworth T60 water truck. The turnaround time for a load of pine to Ochoco is eleven hours and of fir to Klamath Falls is three hours. But it isn't the trucking that slows things down. "With the newer prescriptions we have to fight more and more small stuff, so it is harder to keep production up," says Putnam. "You have to forget what you knew about traditional logging!" This sentiment was echoed by hand faller Rusty Walston, who works on Gordon Westigard's G & S side: "The new loggers are careful and easy to train. They know about minimum impact to the ground. Our job is to open the forest up so the trees can breathe and they don't get buggy. It's no longer that old fall it and crash mentality." As if to prove his point, he pauses and "soaps" a stump. "Soaping" is the application of a borate compound to the surface of a stump within four hours after the tree is cut. This is done to retard the development of Fomes annosus, a root rot that occurs in two strains, one that gets only fir and one that attacks both pine and fir.
Hand fallers are responsible for this bit of maintenance, but shear operators are followed by a person hired as a "soaper." It's the new vocab for the new century. Glenn Linville, who operates the Komatsu PC200 loader on the G & S landing, is still impressed with the evolving way of logging: "I've been logging all my life. This is the most unusual thing I've ever seen. I like the big landing, and this loader is great - it's on tracks, easy to move back and forth, and it serves our purpose." That's the way operator Robin Kirk feels about the Timberline Delimber he uses on the Putnam (Cascade Timber Company) side. "This Timberline," he says, "has been good, smooth, with very little downtime. It delimbs, measures, cuts to length, and the computer allows for very little waste. It 'knows' the minimum acceptable diameter for both pine and fir. It makes my job pretty easy." Winter logging on the Little Horse Peak Project was completed November 1. Tom Fogarty is pleased as he looks over what he calls a Renewal Harvest Unit, where a plot has been converted from fir to newly planted pine. "After two years the stand is beautiful and the soil in fine shape. It's important to emphasize what this does to reduce fire. I'd bet we've taken 4050 tons per acre of combustible stuff from here.
There's a dramatic visual difference between the thinned and the un thinned plots. The thinned plots show a healthy forest where the trees can take advantage of the nutrients and sunlight. This is good forestry." When asked about his reaction to the new logging requirements, Fogarty puts it in perspective: "The industry isn't always after big trees. Columbia Plywood wants them up to only 30 inches at the big end and can utilize them down to a sixinch top. Everything is being used in a sale like this. We adapt." US Forest Service Timber Administrator Bob Carlson points to a unit that was logged in 1999: "That was done one year ago. No untrained eye can even tell it has been logged. It is clean, clear, open, with tall trees and some manzanita and bitter brush, which the deer love. Even the logging road back to a landing has been ripped and obliterated. This will be turned into a hiking trail that starts with a nicely designed interpretive sign. This whole process has been an education. Who knows how much more we will have learned when this fifty year research project is completed!"
This page was last updated on Monday, November 10, 2003