By Barbara Coyner
Larger undercarriages, better remote servicing, fewer components, generous LED lighting in more spacious cabs, lower fuel consumption, increased cooling capacity, more horsepower. The list of new and improved features spells out just what loggers want in their equipment these days. It’s that steady innovation that they come to see at the Intermountain Logging Conference in Spokane, Washington, and the machinery midway can be counted on to draw plenty of feedback.
It Begins with People Cutting Trees
“The new products are great,” said keynote speaker Nick Smith of Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities. “But it still begins with people cutting trees. Today, there’s a real disconnect with urbanites, yet urban folks benefit every day from wood products. Clean air and clean water come from healthy forests too.”
Smith’s positive message suggests there’s renewed energy this year as talking heads consider climate change and carbon footprints. The new and creative ways with wood are making a strong impression, as the “wood is good” mantra challenges architects and builders to use cross laminated timber, pre-engineered panels, and other engineered wood products more routinely. As wood competes favorably with concrete and steel for strength, durability, and resiliency, urban builders are even constructing taller wooden buildings.
Research is showing that some of the engineered wood products actually withstand earthquakes quite well and also have less of a carbon footprint than concrete or steel, plus developers and buyers like the natural look of wood. The change in attitudes is an upbeat message for the entire timber industry.
Steep Slope Logging Dominates Discussions
Yet for conference attendees, it all begins in the woods, and that means focusing on equipment and processing methods geared to safety, productivity, and efficiency. Steep slope logging remained heavily on the radar during the three-day conference. As speaker Doug Mays of Weyerhaeuser Corporation asked how many in the audience still worked as a hand faller, only three men raised their hands, illustrating that boots on the ground are phasing out.
To the outsider, however, the term “steep slope logging” seems the antithesis of safe. Yet safety today means staying in a protective cab rather than facing the elements with a chainsaw, making steep slope logging the safer alternative.
“It’s time for a change,” Mays said. “We need a new concept. In New Zealand, there are no hand fallers. We need to exhaust every other approach before bringing on hand fallers. It’s a win-win for loggers, fallers, and landowners. We need to replace chainsaw handlebars with machine controls.” Mays added that Weyerhaeuser is now testing the waters for steep slope logging, planning to eventually ramp up to capture 75 percent of lands previously logged by hand fallers.
The whole concept of using cable assist makes sense to Steve Barham, the safety coordinator for Intermountain Logging Contractors, based in Coeur d’Alene. “It’s a lot less exposure to danger and if it’s done correctly, it’s much safer. But it has to be an engineered system, not something put together in the back of the shop.”
Dale Ewers of DC Equipment has been on the scene in New Zealand, where steep slope logging got its foothold nearly a decade ago, and while he still sees occasional safety incidents, such dangers have largely evaporated as mechanization replaces people on the ground. After doing equipment repairs for a major New Zealand logging contractor for years, Ewers developed his own machinery to tackle steep slopes, and now he manufactures and markets the Falcon Claw 1250 and 2150, along with other specialized machinery.
“The company saw people as the problem for safety,” Ewers told his audience. “Mechanization was the solution. We still have some hand fallers, but with this approach, we see so many gains in productivity.”
Catering to the current interest in steep slope logging, a Cat 330 retrofitted by Tractionline as a steep slope winch-assist machine, with its stout vertical boom and winch, stood out front and center among the outdoor equipment displays. With its powerful design elements, the configuration drew dozens of comments. Yet seeing the machine up close showed exactly what is necessary to safely operate on steep slope terrain.
As always, the conference offered a buffet of support accessories. For example, the Montana Claw drew interest from those who need extra traction while working in extreme weather conditions. The quick-connect grousers known as “Track Claws” were designed by two heavy equipment operators who saw the need for such a product for snow, ice, mud, and steep terrain.
With the Intermountain Logging Conference in its 79th season, there was a new sense of optimism in the general discussions. Most attendees didn’t find the change of administrations to be of any strong advantage. Instead, logging contractors and workers see that the industry itself is responding to a changing world.
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.