By Mary Bullwinkel
It was a very blustery day at one of Plikat Logging’s active operations, yet above the howl of the wind could be heard the 255 Thunderbird yarder bringing up turns of logs, working alongside a 290 Link-Belt with a 623 processing head and a 4040 Link-Belt shovel. This logging was taking place in the Little River watershed, east of Roseburg, Oregon.
Forty Years of Experience and Counting
Plikat Logging’s equipment operators that day had a combined 40 years of experience working for the family-owned company. Owner Wally Plikat had words of praise not only for his equipment operators, but for the entire logging crew. “It’s important to have people who can be out here every day and deal with the elements,” Plikat says. “That’s our lifeline, is our crews.”
Wally Plikat established the logging company in 1981. He had already been working in the woods since graduating from high school seven years earlier. He started out working for Standley Brothers out of Camas Valley and then went to work for Lone Rock Timber, the beginning of a long-term relationship with that business.
Plikat started doing what most loggers do first when they go to work in the woods: setting chokers.
Growing up in the logging community of Camas Valley, Oregon, Plikat said there was no question what his career path would be. “I grew up in a logging community, so what else was there to do?” he says. Today and every day, Wally Plikat gets to do something that he loves. “The best part about being a logger is the independence and being able to do what we need to do.”
From Three Pieces of Equipment to 90 Employees
Talking about when Plikat Logging first started, Plikat says, “It was hard knocks back then,” referring to the company’s humble beginnings with a Washington 78 yarder, a 366 Bantam excavator, and a 350 Homelite chainsaw.
Compare that to today when during the peak logging season, Plikat Logging is a 90-plus employee business capable of running five yarder sides and three ground-based operations.
In the early years, Plikat Logging was mainly a yarder-based operation. Four yarders were added to logging operations during a seven-year period from the early 1980s to 1990. The first purchase was a 1983 Thunderbird PSY 200, followed by a TSY 50. There’s a special story behind the TSY 50: it was the second one of its type built by Ross Murray, and Plikat Logging bought it brand new in 1985.
“I bought it for dependability. They just run, and run, and run,” Plikat says of Thunderbird yarders. “They’re just bullet proof.”
The last two yarders purchased in 1990 were a Thunderbird TTY 90 and a Madill 099.
It was also the late 1980s when Plikat Logging began to do ground-based logging using a D-6 Caterpillar and a 600 Prentice shovel. Four feller bunchers are also part of the logging equipment mix, three 2250 Madills and a John Deere. Plikat says his operators seem to enjoy the user-friendliness of the Madill machines.
Plikat Logging also runs a fleet of 24 trucks, both logging and low bed trucks. It’s a big plus for us to have our own trucks and lowboys too,” Plikat says.
“Sometimes we will be moving two sides at one time, and we don’t have to call someone and wait our turn. We can get the jobs cleaned up . . . and it makes things a whole lot simpler.”
Plikat Logging is a family operation including the next generation of family members. Currently Plikat’s daughter, son-in-law, and two sons are involved in the operations.
Wally’s son Jeff is a supervisor and son Terry is a contract timber faller. Daughter Stefanie runs the office at Plikat Logging, and son-in-law Steve Cummings is the side rod of the logging operations. It is comforting for Wally Plikat to know that when he is ready to retire, the family business will continue.
Always Staying Safe
Safety is most definitely a top priority for Plikat Logging. The logging company has an in-house safety program and also relies on the safety expertise provided by logging associations.
Plikat says his safety director does safety meetings and teaches a first aid class for new employees. The safety director also personally escorts new employees to the logging job, introduces them to the crew, and shows them how to operate in a safe manner.
The Plikat logging crew also attends meetings and classes to keep current on the issues in the logging industry.
Getting Youth Involved
One issue facing Plikat Logging, as well as the rest of the industry, is a shortage of younger workers getting involved. It is not at all like it was when Wally Plikat entered the industry straight out of high school.
Today, with an aging workforce in the logging industry, the challenge is to find members of the younger generation who want to work. And the problem isn’t the level of compensation, as Plikat Logging offers employees a generous wage and benefits package. “It just seems like many of the younger generation don’t really want to work,” Plikat says.
Southern Oregon Operator of the Year
One bright spot for Plikat Logging was its recent above-and-beyond efforts put into a logging job that earned it the Southern Oregon Operator of the Year award. The award is given annually by the Oregon Department of Forestry to companies that show how operators can both manage the forest and protect natural resources.
The demanding job was on a piece of private timberland west of Drain, Oregon, in the Brush Creek area. It was a job for Lone Rock Timber, a company with whom Plikat Logging has a long-term relationship. “They approached us, and we went and looked at the job, and it was quite a challenge,” Plikat says.
One of the challenges was a Class 1 fish-bearing stream, which the logs were “flown” over to avoid significant impacts. Additionally, the job was downhill logging and involved yarding logs over long distances. Plikat used a TTY 70 yarder with a Bowman sky car in the operations.
Based on this logging job, Lone Rock Timber representative Chris Arnold called Plikat Logging “one of the best loggers in the state.” He said Plikat was nominated because of the difficulty of the job, their willingness to take on the challenge, and the results that show on the ground what a good job was done.
“Anyplace we go, we try to do a good job,” Plikat says, “and we’ve accomplished a lot of tough jobs in our career.”
Plikat said he intends to keep working in the logging industry for the foreseeable future. Another reason for his commitment to the industry is the caliber of people who are involved.
“I enjoy being around the other people in the industry,” he says. “We know each other . . . and we work together. If somebody breaks down or needs parts, we’re always there to help them or they help us. You don’t get that in a lot of other industries.”
On the Cover
Rob Keefe attaching a GNSS locator on a carriage with David Henderson Logging at a cedar pole sale near Headquarters, Idaho. Photo courtesy of Ann Wempe.
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