By Tony Kryzanowski
Skill alone is rarely enough for professional athletes to succeed. The secret to achieving elite level status is packaged into six simple words: ‘I’m in it, to win it.’ The same can be said of elite level loggers, and Clint Carlson, owner of Kaslo, B.C.-based, Sunshine Logging, is a good example of that.
But even veterans like Carlson are feeling the pressure these days, choosing to hunker down as best he can till some of the general weirdness within the logging sector settles down. He says that the business environment today is so skewed that it’s hard for both forest companies and loggers to make the level of adjustments needed to facilitate a return to the more balanced business environment that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While adjustments have been made in the cubic metre rate forest companies are offering to loggers, it’s still not enough to address the extra costs that loggers are currently facing, like the prices they are being asked to pay for new and used equipment, as well as fuel.
Because of supply chain issues, many loggers today have to wait twice as long to replace equipment, and at substantially higher prices. So they check out the used equipment market as a stop-gap measure and with everyone in the same boat, this has driven prices up to unprecedented levels. For example, because Carlson was in a situation where he had more equipment in his fleet than employees, he recently sold a processor after two seasons of use and 3500 hours on the machine for essentially the same price that he paid for it.
But given his decades of experience, Carlson is still hopeful. He says that he is certain that the current used equipment market will work itself out eventually.
“I’m convinced that this super cycle that we have experienced won’t go on forever,” says Carlson. “I think that COVID and the newer equipment not coming out of the factories is what drove those used equipment values up. I believe that it won’t be that long and we are going to see some lower values on used equipment.”
Carlson logs for Kalesnikoff Lumber Company based in Castlegar, mainly for Douglas fir, and Porcupine Wood Products in Salmo, mainly for cedar. He also logs for customers who have won timber sales bids with the B.C. government, such as Stella-Jones and Celgar Pulp.
Sunshine Logging’s annual cut is between 160,000 and 200,000 cubic metres and they log year round. The company’s annual cut varies depending on the percentage of conventional block harvesting they do versus steep slope logging. Being in mountainous terrain, their cutblocks vary greatly, featuring both low elevation and high elevation timber.
Looking back, Carlson and his family have benefitted and prospered from their location in the heart of the West Kootenay region in southeastern B.C. He describes the area’s wood basket as the typical ‘Kootenay Mix’, consisting of Douglas fir, cedar, hemlock, jackpine, white pine, Ponderosa pine, larch and spruce, resulting in several sorts at the landing, from veneer logs for Atco Lumber down to pulp wood—and everything in between. The cutting and transport list varies from block to block. Combined, these species represent a wide diameter range from 8” to 30”, thus requiring great versatility in the size and type of logging equipment that Carlson favours.
“Size and species are completely variable,” he says. “We could end up in stands of smaller jackpine that is .2 of a cubic metre per piece to stands of Douglas fir or spruce that is maybe a cubic metre or more per piece.”
Carlson adds that in terms of selecting a feller buncher or processor head, he tends to favor bigger versus smaller equipment, willing to sacrifice a bit of efficiency in smaller timber blocks with the advantage of having equipment that can work in any size timber. For that reason, he’s found that the Tigercat 870 feller buncher is a good fit for all his cutblocks. Uptime is important to Carlson to maintain workflow because he tends to ‘hot log’ as much as possible because of the limited decking space available to him on mountainside landings.
At present, he runs two crews with 15 employees. Each crew is equipped with a feller buncher, shovel logger, skidder, processor and loader. To support his fleet, Carlson has also purchased a Falcon winch-assist system to work with one feller buncher and hoe chucker to safely and efficiently access and transport timber on more extreme slopes. He even keeps two, older Skylead yarder systems on standby in his yard to ensure that he has the equipment needed to address whatever challenges a cutblock might throw at him.
“Flat ground for us is like 30 per cent slope,” explains Carlson, of their situation.
Carlson started hand falling, line skidding and yarding after high school. In 1989, he started working for Sunshine Logging. Nine years later, he purchased half the business and in 2018 took full ownership.
Carlson says it was an interesting time to enter the logging profession as the industry was making the transition from manual to mechanized logging. However, he points out that greater volume and efficiency came with a bigger price tag. The cost of equipment has essentially doubled over the past decade, when a typical feller buncher could be purchased for about $400,000 in 2008. Now, that same piece of equipment is in the $800,000 to $900,000 range.
His wife, Vanessa, manages the books at Sunshine Logging. Attracted by both the logging business and the picturesque snowcapped mountains on the western shore of Kootenay Lake, both their daughters, Kelsey and Julia, are actively involved in the company and the industry. Kelsey started by running the company’s safety program and helping out in the office. Then she and her husband, Shawn, bought his father’s log haul business, SD Sicotte Trucking, in Kaslo with 10 self-loading logging trucks.
Carlson’s younger daughter, Julia, has a Class 1 license, can drive a logging truck, and also runs equipment on his road building crew. She is in a relationship with one of his processor operators. While they are still young and finding their way, Carlson says it is possible that one day, his daughters could take over Sunshine Logging and he and Vanessa would be pleased if that happened. But that’s a conversation for down the road. He still has plenty of fuel left in the tank.
As a stump-to-truck contractor, Carlson is fortunate to have log trucks available through family connections, given the ups and downs of log truck availability in the Kaslo area. Sunshine Logging only owns one log truck of its own.
His fleet consists of three Tigercat 870C feller bunchers with Tigercat 5203 heads, two tilter Tigercat 870C shovel loggers equipped with Weldco-Beales grapples, a Tigercat 850 purpose-built carrier with a 568 processor head purchased in 2020, and two Hyundai 3026 carriers purchased in 2017 equipped with Southstar 600 processing heads.
The Tigercat 850 carrier with the 568 processing head was among the first commercial units of this model produced by the company. Speaking about his purchasing decision back in 2020, Carlson says the biggest driver behind his decision was that it was Tigercat.
“I was looking for more reliability, and my experience with other Tigercat equipment is that it has better longevity and uptime than excavator-type conversion equipment,” says Carlson. “Tigercat equipment also has good resale value.”
Compared to a conversion, opting for a purpose-built piece of equipment has resulted in easier maintenance, with good access to hoses and filters on the machines. He’s found that fuel consumption is on par with what Tigercat predicted, which is about 22 litres per hour, and again, being purpose-built, it delivers speed advantages with high swing torque, given the twin swing drive
“The 568 head itself is compact,” says Carlson. “It’s doesn’t feel big and bulky but it is quite a mighty head. It will process up to a 28” to 30” log quite reasonably.”
He adds that it also cuts faster than heads on an excavator conversion, saving time and producing a better product.
“We’re getting less ladder check,” he says. Because the saw is cutting faster, it is more of a clean cut, which is particularly important in bigger timber.
The right hand side visibility has also improved with the hooked main boom profile, versus a blocked view with a straight style boom.
For skidders, Sunshine Logging has two Cat 535C skidders, two Cat 535D skidders, and a 525C skidder which have all delivered good performance, but are beginning to show their age. These are a replacement priority for Carlson. They aren’t used often, with most jobs more efficiently managed with hoe chucking.
For road building, Sunshine Logging uses a Dressta TD20 crawler dozer, a Dressta TD25M crawler dozer, as well as two Volvo 300 excavators. They also keep a few smaller size excavators in the yard.
Carlson not only brings an ‘in it to win it’ attitude to work on a regular basis, but also ensures that he is properly equipped to face whatever challenge he faces on a daily basis.
On the Cover:
The last several years have been busy for B.C.’s Lizzie Bay Logging. In that time, in addition to diligently carrying out active logging activities during COVID, the company has become joint owner of a custom sawmilling business, acquired a towboating company, launched a concrete company—and started a tree services business. Read all about the company’s successful diversification beginning on page 12 of this issue. (Cover photo courtesy of Lizzie Bay Logging)
Filling the need for fallers
There’s a shortage of certified fallers in B.C.—but fallers in training like Melie de Jonge are helping to fill that need, with the help of veteran faller—and certified instructor—Richard Butler.
Playing defense in forestry game
Veteran B.C. logger Clint Carlson is playing defense to weather today’s skewed business environment in the forest industry.
B.C.’s Lizzie Bay Logging is still very focused on logging, but is also finding success in diversifying its business.
Solid formula for sawmill survival
Strong faith, no debt and diversification have all helped Mardis Forest Products survive in turbulent times.
Pivoting to pre-finished products
Ontario’s Muskoka Timber Mills has made a successful market pivot to custom, pre-finished wood products, rebuilding after a devastating mill fire.
Tapping into an under-utilized fibre resource
A Haida-owned company in B.C. is working with under-utilized fibre, harvested sustainably, along with a custom sawmill operation, to produce value added wood products.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, is a story from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC).
The Last Word
Tony Kryzanowski notes that West Fraser Timber is investing in the future as Canadian softwood lumber producers face a tough year ahead, after some pretty flush times during COVID.