By Andrea Watts
“It’s a world apart from a clearcut; it’s logging in reverse,” says Eugene (Gene) White, owner of White and Zumstein Inc., of the log jam work his crew is undertaking in the Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Ellsworth Creek Preserve.
Usually, yarding cut trees onto a landing requires precision to avoid the equipment and crew, but on this job, precision means lowering whole trees, in a prescribed pattern, into a stream located nearly 500 feet below where the yarder is perched—while minimizing disturbance of the stream’s bank and the stream itself.
“Engineered chaos” that functions like Chinese finger traps is how Dave Ryan, a forester with TNC describes these engineered log jams. The fact that these guys can yard downhill and place the individual logs to build the jams according to the design, and make it safe, make it work, is impressive, he says.
As White and I drive up to the job that is located a few miles outside of Naselle, Washington, White explains that he became a contractor for TNC in the usual logging-world way — word of mouth. “An acquaintance, Jerry Brindle, suggested us to Kyle Smith, who was the Ellsworth Creek Preserve’s forester at that time, because we have cable thinning experience and a [Thunderbird] 6140 TSY and a yoder,” he says. Last year marked the five-year anniversary of this partnership.
Challenging and Rewarding
Now in his 22nd year in business, White has taken on many difficult jobs, several of which no other logger was willing to try, and he describes the work as difficult at times, but challenging, rewarding, and educational.
“Typically, it’s been situations where we really needed a job, and that’s all that I could find available,” White says, explaining his reason for taking on the difficult jobs. “When I signed the contracts, I really didn’t know exactly how, or if, we could do it but so far, the answer has always come when we had to have it. Having literally some of the best men out there has been the biggest key to our success.”
What makes working at the 8,000-acre Ellsworth Creek Preserve challenging is not the broken terrain, but rather the emphasis on quality instead of production. In addition to the log jam work, which White describes as “a new and interesting challenge for us,” his crew is thinning the cedar-hemlock second-generation stands.
The thinning must be scheduled around the weather and the Marbled murrelet nesting window, but that being said, White adds, “Once Ryan explains the management objectives, he trusts us to locate the yarding corridors, so we can safely fall the trees and protect the murrelet nesting trees during yarding. It can be very tedious, laying out corridors when you have to avoid touching multiple nesting trees dispersed throughout the unit.”
As a forester, Ryan says that he loves the challenge of out-of-the-box thinking to design a management plan that is transitioning the preserve from second-growth to late successional. On this particular job, the 170 right-of-way trees taken from the four units being logged were used to make the jams. White’s trucks hauled the unused logs to the local mill.
Included in the preserve’s management plan is the goal of using the timber revenue to fund the management costs and support the local economies. “In addition to our logging projects, this type of projects [creating log jams] can help fill in niches for folks looking to work in the black,” Ryan explains.
The reason for the log jams is stream and habitat restoration. When the area was logged during the 1980s, the streams were cleared of course wood debris, which has since been found to create valuable habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms. Now, nearly 40 years later, TNC is restoring these streams by returning course woody debris to the stream channel in the form of log jams that mimic natural conditions.
The Right Crew and Equipment
It’s the combination of crew experience and attention to detail that enables White’s crew to create the log jams that are imagined on paper. Aberdeen native Russel Shippey is his resident cutter, and Ryan appreciates “having a faller who gets what we’re doing.” The brush crew performing the actual placement of the logs includes Trent Summerville and four-year veteran Ryan Alder. Both have done a great job creating innovative ways of moving the trees into the perfect positions in the stream — and doing it safely, White says.
Fourteen-year veteran employee Curt Bowers operates the shovel on this job, keeps the log jam material staged for sending over the hill, and prepares the brush bundles. On the rigging is Blake Anshutes, the newest addition to the White and Zumstein family. Responsible for yarding the logs down the hill are Darren Darr and 12-year operator Tracy Heston.
To perform the work, White employs a combination of a Doosan 225, operated by Darr, and a Thunderbird 6140, operated by Heston. Of the Doosan, which White bought in December 2014, he says that he is very happy with it. “It’s the perfect size machine to work with the 6140. The Doosan is relatively inexpensive compared to other brands, but it has a beefy undercarriage and is very stable and smooth. We haven’t had one problem with ours in the first 4,000 hours.”
One adjustment White made to perform the work was switching from an Eagle slack puller carriage (of which he owns three) to his Bowman 9100 sky car, which is usually reserved for the clearcuts. “The sky car made everything smoother and faster and gave the guys in the brush instant response and control. It’s been a workhorse for us,” White explains, “and the equipment is being tasked in ways the manufacturers hadn’t imagined.”
Although there was no precedent for building log jams, Dave Ryan recalls that Trent and Ryan Alder looked at the diagram and said, “‘Let’s make it look like the picture.’ They understood that we need to sell this concept.” What especially impresses Dave Ryan is the crew’s approach to safety and attention to detail. “They’re not dragging the logs into the stream . . . in terms of safety and thought, it’s apparent with this crew they have obviously studied the plan and how they were going to do it.”
Altogether they placed 46 log jams along the one-mile section of the stream.
“The precision they can lay [the trees] with is remarkable,” Ryan observes as another tree is taken down the landing to the stream.
On the Cover
Photo of HM Inc.’s 2454D John Deere was taken by Mary Bullwinkel.
Committed to Preserving the Logging Culture
HM Inc.’s willingness to make new approaches to logging and its ability to specialize has sustained the family business.
National Tree Farmer of the Year
The Defrees Family of Northeast Oregon was awarded the 2016 National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year award by the American Tree Farm System.
Despite Rain and Snow, Fire Season Cometh
Shamion Forest Thinning and Salvage
When Logging Promotes Conservation
White and Zumstein say taking on the difficult jobs no one else wants can be challenging, but also rewarding and educational.
Mass Timber Conference Review
A look at the Mass Timber Conference
Wood is Good
A look at the Intermountain Logging Conference
A review of tracked log loaders and their capabilities.