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TimberWest November/December 2013

January/February 2015

Photo taken of the Blazzard mill pond in Kama, Utah. A Long History in Utah

Timber Management
Sustainablity and diversity keep Three Rivers Logging in operation

A Long History in Utah
Blazzard Lumber has run a successful logging and milling operation since the 1800s

Vashon Forest Stewards
Selling a new vision of forestry to the public

Harvests, Thins & Logjams
If it has to do with timber harvesting, Harkness Contracting can probably handle it

Woody Biomass- Something old, something new...


In the News

Association News

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Guest Column

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Harkness ContractingHarvests, Thins & Logjams

Harkness Contracting Inc. stays versatile

By Jack Petree

Harkness Contracting is located in the South Fork Valley of the Nooksack River near Acme, Wash., in central Whatcom County. Owned by Rick and Angie Harkness, the firm harvests timber throughout Whatcom and Skagit Counties and usually employs about a dozen people.

The company’s equipment base consists of two 210 Kobelco Excavators equipped with full rotation clam shell buckets and grapples, a 200 and a 160 Kobelco excavator, and a number of other, smaller sized excavators. A 2014 X225LL Doosan Log Loader rounds out the firm’s complement of major equipment.


According to Rick Harkness, “We’re geared up for, and generally do, a little bit of everything when it comes to timber harvest.” In fact, Rick says, “We are intentionally versatile. We consider our versatility as being responsible for our having been able to stay in business as long as we have, especially through the years of recession.”

The variety of equipment, large to small, allows Harkness Contracting to seek out and accomplish a broad variety of harvest scenarios. “We recently completed a 420- acre conventional harvest, but we also do a lot of smaller harvests,” Rick says. “We get a lot of requests to do two, three, and five-acre units, and we’re happy to have them.” Often, Rick puts forward, a harvest on a small acreage might be a partial harvest combined with site preparation for a home or a cabin.

Unique Jobs

The Harkness approach has also allowed Rick to pursue some unusual opportunities; opportunities that did not exist only a few years ago. Rick’s mix of equipment and extensive experience have made his firm an important cog in the multilayered team of government and private experts charged with creating new habitat for fish in the rivers and streams of Northwest Washington.

“We started working on salmon enhancement quite a few years ago,” Rick says. “Our company was basically in on the ground floor of the effort to improve habitat. Now it’s become a big thing.”

Harkness ContractingRick Harkness and an intern select trees of the correct diameter and length to be usable in artificial structures.

Staying Informed

Rick’s strategy for Harkness Contracting is based on a clear idea of the future that timber harvesters face in geographies like Western Washington. His firm is experiencing, on the ground, the reality of Forest Service projections regarding the fragmentation of forest lands likely to take place over the next two or three decades throughout the region. This fragmentation is due to an increased emphasis on wildlife habitat and on-going changes in the desires of landowners for the use of their land that are permanently impacting the structure of the forest products industry not only in Western Washington but, across the Western United States.

For example, of the area Harkness serves the Forest Service says:

“Of the northwest Washington case study watersheds, the area with highest projected residential growth is the Strait of Georgia watershed near the cities of Bellingham and Mount Vernon. More people are expected to continue moving to northwestern Washington in general, and higher levels of residential development are projected to expand outward from current population centers. Approximately 165 square miles of currently rural, forested lands are projected to reach exurban-urban housing densities (more than 64 housing units per square mile) by 2030. Several areas of moderate and low housing density away from population centers are also projected to increase in housing density by 2030.”

Regarding projected fragmentation and the urbanization that it brings, the Forest Service continues, “… efforts currently underway to protect and restore salmon habitat should account for this expected additional development of the rural landscape.”

Hand in hand with increased land fragmentation, Forest Service research also points to changes in the vision that current and future owners have for their land. According to the Service, nearly 70 percent of the owners of private forest land in the United States now consider “beauty/scenery” to be a prime objective for their land; passing land on to heirs, privacy, nature protection, a place for a home or cabin, habitat improvement, investment, and a number of other values also drive ownership. Only 10 percent of the private forestland holders in the U.S. consider “timber production,” to be important.

Rick points out, that this means more and more harvests in the future are likely to be partial harvests with thinning for forest health, opening up a portion of a property for a home or a cabin, or even clearing view corridors taking precedence over more traditional harvests.

Harkness ContractingStream Work and Logjams

Contracting to improve fish and other wildlife habitat in the rivers and streams of Western Washington has become a major part of Rick and Angie’s business in recent years as the Fish and Wildlife Service, tribes, and groups dedicated to preserving and enhancing fish stocks work to build fish runs.

Engineered logjams became a favored method for improving habitat in the West in the mid-to-late 1990s. Rick recounts that early on, he happened to have a large supply of the brush and wood a local habitat restoration association needed to build an artificial logjam so, almost from the beginning, he was working with experts on the developing technology.

Artificial logjams are important, according to Fish and Wildlife agencies. “It is an important technology that re-infuses wood components into stream corridors. Wood, an important fish (aquatic) habitat component, is lacking in many systems in the Pacific Northwest and other relevant geographic locations where it was once abundant and natural. It addresses a larger scale of both geomorphic and ecologic watershed restoration.”

Harkness Contracting’s versatility works in nicely when it comes to constructing engineered jams. “It’s not about just going out and dumping some logs and brush into the water and calling it good,” Rick says. “Today’s structures are carefully engineered in advance to mimic natural conditions and to be stable. Locations in the rivers are carefully selected with the structure anchored in place to protect shorelines and keep the structure from washing away in a flood event. Logs and brush are put in place and held in place using cables and other techniques.”

Harkness ContractingLogjam work is seasonal and materials are stockpiled ahead of time.

River Work

Acquiring the timber needed to construct the logjam can sometimes be an issue, Rick comments. Not every tree in the forest works out for a river project. Size is important, and the trees have to be harvestable complete with the roots.

River work is also seasonal, Rick points out. “That means we have to stockpile material ahead of time and that can put a significant financial strain on a business. Landowners don’t want to wait for the money owed them, and we have to be ready to go all out when the project is ready to go.”

Still, Rick says, his work on fish habitat contracting and enhancement is satisfying. “Who wouldn’t feel good about working to build fish and animal populations?” he asks.

As to the future of the forest products industry, Rick says, “There’s going to be continuing change for sure, and I’ve got some ideas about what might take place.”

Asked about what some of those ideas might be Rick laughs, “I don’t want to give away all my secrets. Check in with me again in about ten years.”