September October 2005



Logging Right

Commitment to excellence and hand’s on management are cornerstones of the Brownson Logging Company

By Kurt Glaeseman

The office wall at Brownson Logging Company in Myrtle Creek, Oregon, speaks for itself: letters of commendation, awards, trophies and plaques. Brothers Mike and Gary Brownson are reminded daily that dedication and commitment to excellence in logging do not go unnoticed. When the Oregon Department of Forestry designated Brownson Logging Company as 2004 Southwest Oregon Operator of the Year, Mike was quick to redirect the spotlight to their hardworking crew and to the professional guidance they had from Roseburg Lumber Company.

"One man doesn’t bring about a successful operation like this," Mike asserts. "We were all in this together, and everyone wanted to do the job right."

Tough Assignment

This job was a timber harvest on Roseburg land, about seven miles northwest of Sutherlin. Steep hillsides sloping toward a small fish-bearing stream complicated the logistics, which meant 1,500 feet of downhill logging. A swing yarder with a mechanical slack-pulling carriage was used to gain lift through the Riparian Management Area and to direct logs through the limited number of yarding corridors in the riparian buffer strip. The steady but slow pace of the operation decreased daily production but ensured protection for the live trees left in the RMA.

Mike Brownson stands on ridge overlooking
Riparian Management Area near Sutherlin, Oregon

Most of this work was done in August, under a waiver to operate during an Industrial Fire Precaution Level III period, so a 4,000-gallon pumper with 2,000 feet of hose was installed at the top of the ridge. Fire rules and safety standards were strictly enforced. After the timber harvest, the Brownson and Roseburg crews mulched road and landing areas with straw to minimize sediment runoff. When the crews moved out, the area was cleanly harvested, and significantly more than the minimum required trees were left along the stream.

Carefully executed operations like this have established an enviable reputation for Brownson Logging. Although the brothers were raised on a dairy, they have always been part of a logging tradition. Their grandfather told stories of working with a steam donkey, and when his son Howard bought a logging truck and started cutting in 1972, grandsons Mike and Gary were quick to get on board. Mike brought with him several seasons of Alaskan experience running a shearer mounted on a D-6. Gary had gone to the woods with a neighboring Myrtle Creek company and was ready to contribute his know-how to the family venture. Father Howard is officially retired now, but still runs parts for the Brownsons. Gary and Mike have never had time to look back.

Gary Brownson seated in office in Myrtle Creek.

Staying Small and Effective

Both insist that one element of success for them is their decision to remain small. That means that one of the brothers is always present at a side — planning strategies, solving problems, helping the crew. "We’re both hands-on guys," says Mike, "and that works well with our crews." Although each brother theoretically has his own side, they are both comfortable exchanging lead roles. Each knows all the employees, all the machinery, and all the harvest plans.

"We’re fortunate that Gary and I get along so well," says Mike. "If he needs help moving, I help him. We do whatever we’ve got to do. There’s no time for whining. We’re always on the same page."

Covering All Sides

Currently Gary’s side is working on D. R. Johnson land near Gardiner and Reedsport. The job could well span several years — a good set of 60-year-old Doug fir and spruce, trucked to D. R. Johnson mills in Roseburg and Round Prairie. "We’re working with lots of buffer strips," explains Gary, "on pretty good ground but with quite a few wetlands. It seems we’re always right up against a buffer, a railroad, or Highway 101."

The "little" yarder: 6255 Thunderbird

Tools of the trade for Gary are a 6255 Madill (formerly Thunderbird) swing yarder, a 1242 Thunderbird shovel, and a 1236 Madill processor — a good combination of machinery for the eight employees. The first logs are loaded at five a.m., so Gary starts the two-hour trip to the coast at three — "The cool hours, you know, when the traffic is light!"

Mike’s Tyee Mountain side is another long-term specialty job, contracted through Roseburg Lumber. Located just west of Sutherlin, the tract is big timber, predominantly fir, with a minimum-damage-to-existing-trees restriction. Mike uses a 110-foot "Skadill" tower — a T110 skyline Skadgett tower mated with an 046 Madill. The 1 3/8-inch lines hang out about 3,000 feet above the owner’s tree farm. The Boman carriage is a Mark V Super Car, a dependable machine for big wood.

The Boman Mark V Super Car carriage does a nice job with big wood.

Sometimes the big yarder is idle for months at a time, but when it is needed, it’s available. A second (smaller) yarder, a 6255 Thunderbird, is a versatile way to do mop-up and the corners, without having to spend the time and expense to move the big tower. Another set of eight employees covers the Tyee side. In addition, all mechanical and maintenance work is done by Brad Osborne, who works when and where he is needed. Both sides have a Brownson-owned Kenworth log truck. Current turnaround time from the Tyee side to Roseburg is a little over three hours. The time is longer, of course, from Gary’s side on the coast.

Morale Booster

Mike, an avid elk hunter, jokes about a little tradition that has developed with his crew. They are almost all bow hunters, and the last week of September they literally close down the side for their hunting trip to Eastern Oregon. "They’ve earned that week off," laughs Mike. "I know how much I look forward to my own trips to New Mexico. In fact, I’d hate to have to work with my crew if I said no!"

"We pretty much work year-round," says Mike. "We have very few down days, and those usually come from a slowdown at the mill. Our crews never have to whine about having to take a day off."

Solid Relationship

The Brownsons have done a lot of work with Roseburg Lumber, and the relationship has been a good one. "I respect and admire their timber management and their aggressive tree-planting program," says Mike. "And they’ve been mighty good to us. Once Gary and I were the new kids on the block. Roseburg let us work in with the Big Boys, the tough competition. We’ve contracted with them for 30 years now. You couldn’t ask for better people to work with."

"Staying small and tight has worked well for Brownson Logging," Mike reflects. "There’s still a good future in logging. There may be fewer guys doing it but better money for those willing to stick it out, do the labor, and perform to high standards."

That wall of plaques and trophies and awards would seem to indicate that the Brownsons are certainly on the right track.


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This page was last updated on Tuesday, November 15, 2005