Brown Brothers Logging, Emmett, IdahoA Legacy Going Strong

Brown Brothers Logging, Emmett, Idaho

Lindsay R. Mohlere

Nearly 10 years ago, when TimberWest first checked in on one of Idaho’s premier logging outfits, Brown Brothers Construction and Logging Inc. of Emmett, Idaho, we found a legacy logging business thriving in the central Idaho forests.

A John Deere 648

Starting out as far back as Idaho statehood, the Brown family has carried the logging tradition into the fifth generation.

Now, a decade later, Brown Brothers Logging continues to face the turbulent storms of the timber business with vigor and resolve. When the economy tanked in 2008, timber was one of the hardest hit industries, and many logging operations fell by the wayside. Like everyone else, Brown Brothers was not immune to the effects of the crumbling economy the country faced. However, with the strength and determination of its five-generation, 100-year-old legacy, they slugged it out through the tough times to become stronger, more efficient and, ultimately, more successful than ever before.

Tim Brown, company president, explained that the company’s philosophy helped guide them through the turbulence. “We did it with tenacity. We bulled our neck, tightened up, and reduced our debt and squeezed through,” he says. “Our philosophy is to do it better than anyone else can. And do it more efficiently at a lower cost. Somehow, we were lucky enough to survive.”

And survive they did.

A Kenworth truck pulling logs from the siteA Kenworth truck pulling logs from the site.

Running Four Sides

Currently, Brown Brothers operates four sides overseen by Tim and his three sons, Matt, Luke, and Jake. Like before, the main workload comes from Boise Cascade, but they also do work for Evergreen Forest Products and Idaho Forest Group.

Luke runs the skyline side, Jake manages a tractor/mechanical side that can be split into two outfits, and oldest son Matt handles the trucking and maintenance side, fielding eight Peterbilt trucks, along with contracting several gyppo contractors. Tim oversees the road building operations.

Brown Brothers employs around 50 people depending upon the time of year, with many of them long-time employees. However, the company also faces the challenge of not being able to find qualified people.

“We’re extremely fortunate in the core people we have. They’ve stuck with us without much turnover. It’s allowed us to move forward,” says Tim.

Crews usually work 10-and-a-half months (shutting down mid-February through March) and turn out an average annual harvest of about 35 MMBF. “We keep our key employees busy during the off-season working in the shop. You know, pulling the belly-pans, cleaning the machines, and fixing what needs to be fixed,” Tim says.

Tim added that the company works within a radius of a couple hundred miles, bidding on jobs in central and southern Idaho, eastern Oregon, and Washington. “We go where we have to go to find work.”

Brown Brothers use a 2154 with tong throwerBrown Brothers use a 2154 with tong thrower

Salvage Specialists

In addition to logging and thinning jobs for the state, Brown Brothers Logging gets heavily involved with salvage projects. Their latest salvage job will take them to the remains of Idaho’s Pioneer Fire.

The fire, which started on July 18, 2016 in the Boise National Forest and torched nearly 200,000 acres, was the largest wildfire on Forest Service lands of 2016. More than 1800 firefighters representing local, state, federal, and tribal agencies were on the scene at various times during the blaze. The Forest Service Incident Information System estimates total suppression costs to exceed $97.5 million.

Last summer, Boise Cascade purchased most of the salvage contract and assigned Brown Brothers as its lead contractor.

Since time is of the essence in salvage work, Brown Brothers applied a full-court press to begin the estimated 20 MMBF project.

Nearly all of Brown’s equipment stable is being used on the assignment.

“Our CAT side was finishing up on a state sale that Evergreen Forest Products owns, and they were good enough to let us out of some of our contract to help Boise out,” says Tim. “We’ve pulled equipment out of the bone pile and tried to find people to run it. We’re hitting it hard and heavy. We’re going full bore.”

On the project, Brown will field their skyline side with a Thunderbird TSY 355 swing yarder, bought new in 1990, a Caterpillar 522 feller buncher, and three 623 Waratah dangle-heads paired on two John Deere 2454 and a Cat 324. Also joining the action are Brown’s two CAT sides and one 2154 John Deere and one Cat 320 forest machine converted to tong throwers. “We’ve also got our road building side in there with two excavators, mostly just building temp roads and doing reconstruction work, putting pipe in, and cleaning,” he says.

Brown Brothers use a variety of Caterpillar machinesBrown Brothers use a variety of Caterpillar machines, includng a 522 feller buncher, a 324 paired
with a Waratah 623 head and a 320 forest machine.

Working with Restrictions

One of the biggest hurdles Brown Brothers has to face during salvage operations is the particular restrictions placed on the sale by the Forest Service.

“The biggest challenges are the restrictions from the Forest Service — the goshawks and flammulated owls. We need to leave seven trees per acre, of which four of the seven have to be in the class over 26 inches,” explains Tim.

The Forest Service will list units that have a possibility of bird activity and then they survey the unit. If they see birds, the Forest Service will levy the restrictions.

“They’ve got over 187,000 acres that burned, and they’re still leaving dead trees standing within the logging units,” Tim says. “Some of the units are hazard tree removal. Those units, logged on both sides to 200 feet from the side of the road, don’t have leave trees in them because they [Forest Service] don’t want their roads closed because of fallen trees. In the regular units, skyline and tractor-jammer units, we have to leave seven per acre.”

Another requirement in the salvage contract is the remediation of roads and skid trails. “We will build temporary roads, which means once they’re used they have to be put back. Restored so you can’t tell they were there,” says Tim. “All the skid trails have to be put back with an excavator and covered with slash so you can’t tell they were there.”

Brown BorthersA Lengthy Commitment

Tim Brown expects the Pioneer salvage project to keep his crews busy for quite some time. The work commenced in August of 2017 and may continue through this year. “It depends on the winter. From early spring till May, we can do activity, if it’s an early year. But we run into the bird problem again. From May until the middle of August, the Forest Service has restrictions in place, and you can’t log or get around those units that have the birds in them.”

Like all salvage jobs, the underlying challenge of getting the trees out before they lose any redeeming value is always a time-sensitive endeavor. Unfortunately, the Forest Service has its hands tied by a drawn-out process usually impacted by restrictions and legal challenges to move on salvage projects in a timely manner. The Pioneer Fire salvage project has taken over a year to get the go-ahead.

“Right now, the subalpine fir and Lodgepole is almost worthless. The Doug fir and pine will hold the moisture a little bit longer. By the end of this year, most of what’s left, except the Doug fir, will be junk,” he says. “If it had been state land, they would have been laying out the timber sale while the smoke was still coming off the fire. It is what it is.”

It’s this flexibility to adjust to industry, regulation, and technology that has kept Brown Brothers Logging in operation for over a century.

TimberWest November/December 2013
March/April 2018

On the Cover
Lindsay Mohlere captures a John Deere 2154 working in an Idaho forest.

A Legacy Going Strong
Starting out as far back as Idaho statehood, the Brown family has carried the logging tradition into the fifth generation.

Finding Success in the Residuals Market
Wood shavings may be regarded as a waste product, but for Gem Shavings, supplying animal bedding has proven to be a successful business model.

Eastside Challenges of Modern Day Logging
Kreige Logging understands that overcoming challenges is part of running a successful business.

Sawmill Training Takes a Seat in the Classroom
Five wood products manufacturing companies have teamed up with North Idaho College and Lewis-Clark State College to gather $482,582 for sawmill training.

The Fix Is in! ... Or Is It?
Congress passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus budget that has solved the “fire borrowing” conundrum that has plagued the Forest Service for years.

Focus on Building Leadership
Intermountain Logging Conference review.

2018 OLC Pictorial Review
A look at the highlights of the recent conference.

Guest Column: Forestry’s Best Days are Yet to Come. Here’s Why.
Nick Smith of Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities explains what lays ahead for the industry.


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