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Still Pioneers . . . . . .

Summary: After all these years. . . Veteran market loggers Husby Forest Products Ltd. continue to develop new approaches to harvesting environmentally sensitive sites on the BC coast.

By Jim Stirling
Copyright 1996. Contact publisher for permission to use.

The drone of aircraft engines and the thwack of helicopter blades are familiar echoes in the hills around Eden Lake. They indicate Husby Fo rest Products Ltd.’s operation is ticking along as it should. The lake shore camp in the northwest of Graham Island on British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands is a fly-in operation.

Weather permitting, a flight from the outside world lands on the lake daily, delivering a cargo of people, groceries and equipment parts. Husby Forest Products believes helicopters are an efficient timber harvesting tool these days for its many environmentally sensitive sites. The company has discovered other flight advantages to access and assess its satellite activities.

Husby Forest Products has been demon-strating a pioneer spirit since Dave Husbytook a calculated risk in the early 1980s. Some might call it a gamble. Husby saw anopportunity in the wake of a deep recessionwhile while working on a six-month clean-up contract on Graham Island. As a result, he negotiated deals with two logging camp operations, each owned independently by Japanese interests. He ended up buying both and forming Husby Forest Products Ltd. It’snow one of a group of Husby companies that includes the heli-logging division. Not bad for someone who started off in the Charlottes driving a gravel truck at Sandspit. Husby Forest Products Ltd. is one of the West Coast’s larger market loggers, meaning it has timber-cutting rights but no processing facilities.

Estimating when markets peak for specific size and species of timber and having it available is a challenge for the success-ful market logger. When LSJ visited Husby Forest Products Ltd., the approximately 26 dry-land sorts were jammed. Fitting in morewood was like trying to complete a jigsawpuzzle on a table too small to contain it. The gamble: better log prices just around the corner. And then, according to the strategy, a series of Rivtow log barges averaging 12,000m3 a load would haul the wood toward premium markets. The barges access the Eden Lake operation through nearby NadenHarbor, an inlet where a whaling fleet once berthed.

The company plans a busy 1996 with atleast 300,000 m3 of timber coming out of the Eden Lake camp. If the BC Forest Service approves the cutting permits, the company intends to produce at least 100,000 cubicmetres by heli-logging. “The amount of heli-logging permitted really comes down to good old common sense,” reports BobBrash, district manager for the BCFS in Queen Charlotte City.

“If the companies have done their homework and an area can’tbe logged conventionally, there’s no problem. Site-specific decisions will be made ifan area earmarked for heli-logging can beconventionally harvested, he adds.

Two-handfalling/grapple yarding shows and a supersnorkel that typically generates about 30 percent of the volume will produce the balanceof Husby’s timber, predicts Wayne Craig, camp superintendent at Eden Lake. Hemlock is dominant in the company’stimber mix with spruce, cedar and yellowcedar in butt-diameter sizes ranging from 15cm to three metres. The workhorses are twoheli-cranes with 2268-kg and 9072-kg lift capability respectively. Craig says the machines have several applications.

“You have to log to profile, and that can mean long yarding with a helicopter rather than high-lead methods. You can conventionally logwith grapple yarders until you run out of deflection.” There are many sensitive creeks in Husby’s operating areas and it makes sense to reduce road building and grounddisturbance by heli-logging blocks, he adds. Beginning in 1992, Husby participated in a study of helicopter logging on unstable slopes.

It was part of the Fish - Forestry Interaction Program conducted by the western division of the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada. Also co-operating was Canadian Air-Crane Ltd., (a Husby company and the BC Ministry of Forests. The study compared productivity, costs and other operational factors in clear-cut, patch-cut and single-tree selection systems. It included a couple of years of post-harvest follow-ups to assess things like slashaccumulations, soil distrubance and damageto residual stems.

Husby uses small helicopters to airlift fallers to new settings, as well as on right-of-wayand heli-logging blocks. Same thing with engineering and development crews. “You get more productivity out of fallers and engineers. Without the helicopter’s help, engineers may have to walk an hour before they start work. This way, they’re fresh,” says Craig.

And no walking out at day’s end. Craig says he gets a clearer look at each log-ging operation from the air, including Husby’s two seasonal satellite logging camps accessible in a few minutes of flying time from Eden Lake. “You can’t hide anything from the perspective of a helicopter,” he adds.

Helicopter logging systems are undoubtedly expensive, although the advantages to other values have to be factored in. Andweather has impacts on helicopters. TheCharlottes are famous for fogs and unpredictable sea mists that can keep machinesgrounded and crews off the job. The anticipated increase in harvesting anddevelopment activity during 1996 will boostthe population at Eden Lake to about 100 from 80 people. Apart from Husby’s staffand union people, there will be about 15 contract fallers, perhaps 18 contract engineers (usually retained through Coast ForestManagement of Victoria), sub-grade contractors and tree planters, and spacing crews.

Husby plants an average 375,000 seedlings annually. Craig says concerted planting since Husby acquired the two previous operations has caught up with NSR lands. The Eden Lake camp is about 30 years old, but is much improved. Recently, Dave Husby underwrote a new gym/weight training centre that would grace any downtown fitness club. Isolation is also tempered by satellite TV, and city newspapers usually arrive with daily flights. The camp cook is the real head honcho, and Craig pays John Able from Cal-Van Canus Catering a telling compliment: “He’s been here about 10 years and I’ve never got tired of his stuff.”

Most crews work a 28-day shift then 14 out. When it’s Craig’s turn for some R & R, either general manager Arnold Pertile or operations manager Paul Laurie assumes the helm. A fly-in camp places an emphasis on equipment maintenance and servicing. A needed part can take time to locate and arrive, and comes with a high fly-in price tag; productivity declines in the meantime. The heavy-duty mechanices, welder andmaintenance crew are innovative at keeping machines operating with what ’s available until the right part can be delivered. Other attitudes help. “We buy good equipment to start with and pay attention to upkeep,”outlines Craig. “We replace our logging equipment while it’s relatively new, anaverage three-year turnover for front-endloaders for example.”

The front-end loaders are generally Cat and loaders and road-building machines are Hitachi. The grapple yarders are Madill 044s. The super snorkel is mounted on a Madill 075. It was manufactured by Micron Machinery of PortMcNeill, BC. With the super snorkel, the machine weighs about 100 tonnes and needsthe support of a good road. The snorkel’s152.4-cm grapple can reach out 49.3 m from the centre of the machine to latch onto hand-felled timber and deck it at roadside.

Husby Forest Products has been affectedby BC’s Forest Practices Code, along withevery other harvesting operation in theprovince. But the company’s past practicesprepared it operationally for some of theCode’s challenges. Husby employed a fisheries technician eight years ago to study fish, use of streams prior to logging and work with the engineers to develop a harvesting system with minimum impact. The technician may recommend no disturbance near a stream or low-impact heli-logging.

Post -logging cleanup may also be required. “It’s very expensive logging, but you do what is necessary and you don’t skimp,” says Craig. Husby now has two fisheries technicians on staff working in riparian management. Despite using helicopters, the Eden Lake operation expects to build more than 50 kmof road this year. One reason is the 40-ha maximum opening allowed on the Charlottes under the Code. “It means we have to build more road for the same volume of wood.” Craig says there should be bene-fits in 12 to 15 years when trees are past the free-to-grow stage and we can go back inand harvest the areas in between. “In the meantime, it’s very costly for us.” He says finding rock for roadbuilding is a consistently difficult chore. Trying to identify sourcesof suitable material before working on the sub-grade slows the process down. The nature of Graham Island’s climate and topography compounds planning problems and operational procedures. It rains a lot all year, but especially during winterstorms.

Rainwater run-off causes sedimentation into all classes of fish-bearing streams. The Code restricts sedimentation from timber harvesting procedures; sedimentation from any source requires careful monitoring and can curtail activity. Fierce, swirling inds are typical and blowdown is common. The jury is out on the effectiveness of techniques like feathering cut-block shapes to inimize blowdown.

Slides, too, are a natural part of the landscape. Harvesting activities have done nothing tocurb populations of Sitka blacktail deer. Husby and other licencees on the Charlotteshave a continuing battle trying to protect lanted seedlings, especially cedar, from being browsed to death by deer. Encasing the seedlings in Vexar tubing has not proved very efficient, reports Craig. Protecting them in a staked-down chicken wire cage for a few years of deer-free growth is labour intensive and adds dramatically to planting costs.

The Council of Haida Nations is part of the consultative process on Graham Island, along with the provincial ministries of forests and environment, and federal fisheries. “The Council looks at our five-year plans, expresses its concerns and we try to address them,”continues Craig. One concern is culturally modified trees. For example, one area contains cedar stems with deep indentations where they’ve presumably been examined for their canoe-making suitability. The area is deferred from logging pending a determination of their significance. CMTs and Code restraints like the 30-metre-wide buffer zones alongside streams have a cumulative effect.

“We’re talking about a considerable impact on what ’s loggable.” But learning to best accommodate change is an industry constant. “Husby Forest Products is prepared to do whatever it takes to maintain the sustainability of the resource,” concludes Craig.

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