By Paul MacDonald
There is a lot of forest industry history in both branches of the Scott Family of Revelstoke, B.C. And Jim Scott and his wife, Dorothy, who should be nearing retirement, would like to see that history continue. Some of the challenges facing B.C.’s logging contractors were outlined last year in George Abbott’s report to the B.C. government, and the government recently made some changes (see sidebar story on page 46).
In the Scott Family, Dorothy’s family goes back five generations in the forest industry, and Jim’s family goes back almost as far.
The family connection to the industry continues on today with the youngest generation, with their grandson, 19-year-old Jake, looking to finish up his heavy duty mechanic apprenticeship with the logging outfit in 2019.
And it is a solid family operation. Working out in the bush these days with Jim are his son, Luke, two brothers, Tom and Shell, nephew, Jasper, and two brothers-in-law, Norm Collier and Al Pylatuk. Helping out in the office, along with Dorothy, are their daughter Cheryl, and sister, Cathy, when Dorothy is on holidays.
So to say that their companies, Two Guys Logging/Poncho Holdings, are a family affair would be an understatement.
Working in the bush came early to Jim Scott. He started setting chokers for his Dad’s logging operation near Revelstoke, in B.C.’s Columbia River region area almost 50 years ago. “It’s been a family business for many, many years,” says Jim.
His father, Al, who is now 94-years-old, started out as a farmer in Alberta, before setting up a steam powered sawmill in Cochrane, supplying lumber to his brother, who sold it in Hanna through Scott Lumber Company. The story goes that half of the town of Hanna was built with Scott Lumber in the 1940s.
Al then moved to B.C., and set up in the town of Golden, between the Columbia Mountains and the Rockies.
“Dad set up a portable sawmill, on the west side of Golden, in the mountain benches there,” says Jim. “That’s where the ski hill is now.”
There is a Golden connection now for Two Guys Logging/Poncho Holdings, as they log for Louisiana-Pacific, which has a Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) operation in the town.
“At one point, Dad managed a company mill in Golden, but he was more of a guy who wanted to run his own operation,” says Jim. So the move was made to Revelstoke, and he set up a portable sawmill at Encampment Creek, near where BC Hydro’s massive Mica Dam now sits.
With the move to get portable sawmills out of the woods in B.C., Al moved back into logging and did contract work for the WT Joyce Farm, which is now the Beaumont Tree Farm, which has privately owned forestlands around the West Kootenays region of B.C.
“We’ve got a lot of history in the area,” says Jim.
The forestry bug bit early for both Jim and his brothers. “My father could not go anywhere without us boys tagging along with him,” says Jim.
He and brother, Wayne, started working for their Dad, with Jim being the Cat operator, building roads and trails, and Wayne running skidder and Cats. Jim notes that he left logging for a few years—but the woods drew him back. “That was when I realized logging was in my blood—and I’ve stuck with it. As they say, once a logger, always a logger.”
At one time, Al’s operation was extensive, and he ran seven dozers and seven skidders in the steep slopes around the Revelstoke area. “We had seven sides, so there was a skidder and dozer for each side, and a roadbuilding crew, with four or five excavators,” explains Jim.
Due to an industry downturn, and financial difficulties, Al restructured operations, and emerged with a more modest logging operation.
Through Poncho Holdings, Jim took over the yarding operations, and had an Evergreen contract, which is now with Louisiana-Pacific. They now have two contracts with L-P through Two Guys Logging/Poncho Holdings. They also do a fair bit of logging and roadbuilding work for the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation, a community-owned forest company.
At one point, Jim had three Madill yarders working, and got into trucking through Poncho. “We’ve been kind of up and down—it was very difficult to find trucks, and we were loading on weekends, just to keep the wood moving.”
Through all of this, Jim and Dorothy focused on the company operations, and getting through. But it has been a challenge. “It’s been pretty trying,” he says.
These days, Jim is back to doing conventional ground-based logging, and happily so.
“I was never really a yarder guy,” he says. “I’m a ground logging guy, since I started operating dozers and crawlers—I was the guy who built the all the roads and landings for my Dad’s operations.”
Over the last five years, Two Guys Logging/Poncho Holdings has gradually exited yarding work. The last yarder was sold in 2017.
“It was a real battle with cable yarding and rates,” says Jim. “Cable yarding is costly, and you need to have the rates to support it. Part of it, too, is that we couldn’t find the right people to operate the grapple yarders. It’s very hard to find yarder people anymore.”
Actually, Two Guys Logging/Poncho Holdings, like a lot of logging contractors, is finding it difficult to find good equipment operators, period—so much so that Jim operates their feller buncher himself.
“I love what I’m doing, and the challenges, and the business. But finding people who can work along with you and have that same kind of desire, well, that’s hard.” But Jim is quick to add that he feels fortunate in that the family members and long term employees they have working for them do share that desire.
“The challenge is to find young operators,” he added. “How do you train someone, especially in our steep ground? And some of our timber is not that great. You have to really know what you are doing, to get the most value out of every tree you are harvesting.”
That challenge of making good use of often not-so-great timber extends both to contractors, and forest licencees in the region. Their forest base is about 30 per cent each cedar, spruce and hemlock and the rest is pine and fir. And some of it is older wood.
Having long term employees is great, but it’s kind of a double-edged sword, in that they are getting older. “That is a problem coming up really quickly,” says Jim. “We’ve been fortunate having people who have been with us for a long time, but they are ready to retire.” One of his truck drivers, Robert Dodman, now in his late-50s, actually started working with Jim’s Dad, close to 40 years ago.
“The challenge is where are we going to find young people? I haven’t figured out that part of the equation.”
Jim has plenty of company in that challenge, as the forest industry as a whole sees one of its highest priorities is attracting young people to the industry. In Revelstoke, the forest industry has to compete with big outfits like BC Hydro and CP Rail.
The ground-based logging that Two Guys Logging/Poncho Holdings is doing these days is working out better than the grapple yarding, though it still brings its own set of ups and downs.
There was an intentional overlap in the equipment transition. “We were already doing bunching before we exited the yarding,” explains Jim. “We were doing a conventional side at the same time as we had still had yarding equipment.”
One of their jobs involved clearing for Revelstoke’s ski hill, which was done by Jim’s late brother, Wayne, operating a buncher. Fittingly, part of the area cleared now has a ski run called Feller Buncher.
It’s been a while, but when Jim went looking for ground-based equipment, he went for a brand he knew. “I knew what buncher I wanted right from the get-go,” he says. He picked up a Madill T2250, a couple of years old. That workhorse now has 16,000 hours on it. “We’ve rebuilt the engine once, but the Madills are rebuildable pieces of equipment—that’s partly why I went with them.”
Also in the equipment line-up is a Madill 2850, that he bought new, with a Southstar QS600 head. They also have a Link-Belt 240 with a Waratah 622B head. “It’s been a good machine—there are 14,000 hours on that head, and a couple of thousand more on the carrier.” They purchased the Link-Belt used, but it had low hours on it.
They still do a fair amount of hand falling, and have a Cat 324D that they use for hoe chucking.
Also in the equipment line-up are a Link-Belt 240LL loader, and a number of pieces of John Deere equipment, including three Deere grapple skidders, a 748 G111, a 748H and 948L. They have an extensive line-up of logging trucks, mostly Peterbilts with Peerless trailers.
Jim noted that he has always operated in steep slopes—in this part of B.C. it’s pretty hard not to.
“With the Madill tilter buncher, part of the reason I got it was because I wanted us to be able to cut on steep ground, and be able to level out.”
With some high operating-hours equipment, Two Guys Logging/Poncho Holdings tries to put a focus on preventative maintenance, as much as possible.
As with operators, it can be difficult to find good trades people.
The forest industry was hit hard when the oil patch was booming—with a lot of good mechanics and operators leaving B.C. for Alberta. “Some people have come back, so that has turned around a bit. But others have retired,” says Jim. Grandson Jake, who will soon finish his heavy duty mechanic apprenticeship, is very ably helping out.
In terms of equipment, Jim knows that they need to look at getting some newer pieces. He’s not about to jump into the tethered equipment market, though, with its significant price tags. “The licencees want us to have steep slope equipment, but we need to be able to pay for it with higher rates.”
That said, he’s intent on staying in the business—but it still has challenges, to say the least, he says, with its long hours, and the toll it can take on family life.
“I’m passionate about the industry—but passion does not always make you money,” he says. “This industry has provided us with a good living, but not without a lot of stress.”
With an aging work force, the B.C. contractor is looking for new employees who are interested in working in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful regions of B.C., in the town of Revelstoke, on the banks of the Columbia River.
Loggers here have a bit of a commute to get to work, but no worse than the commute workers might face in Vancouver or Toronto—and they get a lot of great scenery, and maybe some wildlife, along the way.
A challenge is the cost of living in this paradise in B.C.’s Kootenays region: since the town’s ski resort has expanded, the cost of living has increased substantially.
But Jim and Dorothy Scott of Two Guys Logging/Poncho Holdings say the mid-sized community offers a great family-oriented lifestyle, and amazing outdoor activities, from kayaking to heli-hiking. “I can leave the office at lunch time, and be at a cross-country trail or the bottom of the ski run in five minutes,” says Dorothy.
To say the least, it’s a difficult time for many logging contractors in B.C., who are often caught between rising costs and stagnant logging rates from licencees.
But the B.C. government is hopeful that recommendations from the Logging Contractor Sustainability Review released last year, and some recently announced policy changes, will help improve relationships between logging contractors and forest licensees.
The review was conducted by George Abbott, a former Liberal cabinet minister, and former B.C. Premier Dan Miller facilitated the last phase of the review.
Jim Scott was one of dozens of B.C. logging contractors who met with Abbott, and he’s hopeful that something constructive will come out of the review, and changes.
Achieving more of a balance in the relationship between logging contractors and forest licencees is key, says Jim.
“We’re all in the same game,” he says. “We need to have a healthy forest, healthy contractors, and a healthy lumber business—if there is part of that formula that is not working, we need to fix it.”
Some policy changes were announced in January, at the Truck Loggers Association (TLA) annual convention in Vancouver.
At the TLA, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced a significant change to the Timber Harvesting Contractor and Sub-contractor regulation, the elimination of the fair market rate test.
The fair market rate test is a forestry industry method used to settle rate disputes between contractors and licensees, which has caused lengthy delays in reaching settlements, contributing to the inability of contractors to operate their businesses sustainably, says the TLA.
The government’s decision to eliminate the method in favour of models and experts will streamline a process that used to take months and years, into a process which should now take up to a maximum of 14 days, the association says.
“This announcement is what we were hoping for and will result in a fundamental shift in the relationship between contractors and their employers across the province,” said David Elstone, executive director of the Truck Loggers Association. “Elimination of the fair market rate test is a monumental change for our industry, allowing contractors to more equitably share in the value of the timber resource.”
Horgan also made a commitment to exploring solutions that the TLA has put forward to address the industry’s acute skilled labour shortage.
“After advocating for a training tax credit over the past three years, we are thrilled to hear this announcement,” says Elstone. “We are facing unprecedented retirement in the forest and logging industry, and even today there are far too many logging trucks and heavy equipment sitting idle due to the lack of experienced and competent operators. This may open up substantial opportunity for contractors’ needs for on-the-job training province-wide.”
Horgan shared details of the government’s new Coast Revitalization Initiative, which focuses on the Coast’s issues evidenced by declines in jobs, lumber production and fibre supply; a continued reliance on log exports; a need for increased First Nations participation in all aspects of the industry and too much waste left in the forests after harvest.
“As timber harvesting contractors we recognize change is required and that the industry needs certainty,” says Elstone. “We are hopeful the announced initiatives will support industry sustainability.”
On the Cover:
A commitment to staying innovative and cutting edge through continuous improvements has been the key to continued business success for Vancouver Island company Coastland Wood Industries—and recent capital investments reinforce that solid approach (Photo courtesy of Coastland Wood Industries).
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COFI Conference coming up
Logging and Sawmill Journal previews the B.C. Council of Forest Industries’ annual convention, being held April 3 to 5 in Vancouver, the largest gathering of the forest sector in Western Canada—an event that attracts industry CEOs and executives, senior representatives from customers, as well as government and First Nations leaders.
Canucks head south … to Louisiana
A new sawmill recently started up operations in Louisiana, and it has a strong Canadian connection in its ownership and equipment, through B.C.-based Tolko Industries and the BID Group.
B.C.’s Resources Expo show gears up
Work is well underway for the next Canada North Resources Expo (CNRE) being held May 24-25 in Prince George, B.C., and the interest level in the show from exhibitors—such as suppliers of logging and heavy construction equipment—is high.
Making the switch to cut-to-length
Quebec contractor Luc Beaulieu made the leap to mechanized cut-to-length harvesting with some gently used refurbished logging equipment, and the switch has served him—and his woodlot customers—well.
Family forestry legacy
The Scott Family of Revelstoke, B.C., truly runs a family logging operation, and they’re keenly interested in seeing the family legacy continued—but like a lot of B.C. contractors, they’re facing challenges in achieving that goal.
Coastland’s continuous improvements
Veneer producer Coastland Wood Industries’ business strategy of continuous improvements has delivered solid results for the Vancouver Island-based company.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, is a major feature story from the Canadian Wood Fibre
The Last Word
Timber shortages in B.C. are now hitting home, says Jim Stirling.