Dave Wilkerson Logging, Rogue Valley, OregonDave Wilkerson Logging puts it Caterpillar 527 through its paces.

Making It Look Right

Dave Wilkerson Logging, Rogue Valley, Oregon

By Lindsay R. Mohlere

When Weyerhaeuser decided to harvest a difficult and highly visible tract just on the outside of Butte Falls, Oregon, Weyerhaeuser forester Chris Strunk talked to Dave Wilkerson, president of Dave Wilkerson Logging LLC about getting the job done.

As a long-time logging outfit in the Rogue Valley, Wilkerson has more than 40 years of experience working the unique complexities of the heavily over-storied forests of the Big Butte Plateau in the Cascade Range of southern Oregon. Strunk and Wilkerson walked the 100-acre site and came up with a logging plan that they presented to Butte Falls Mayor Linda Spenser.

Dave Wilkerson Logging, Rogue Valley, OregonChallenging Project

The site was very visual and presented several difficult elements that had to be overcome to make it right. “The city had some concerns,” says Wilkerson. “But I told them I would do everything that I could to make it look good for them and hopefully, when we finished, it would look right and they would be happy with it.”

Following the go-ahead from the city and Strunk, Wilkerson and his crew went to work. What ensued was a project that went above and beyond the norm, earning Dave Wilkerson Logging the Oregon Department of Forestry’s 2018 Southwestern Oregon Operator of the Year Award. Weyerhaeuser was also commended for their work on the project.

According to the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), “The tract, amid powerlines and busy pedestrian and road traffic, contained a fish-bearing stream. It took Wilkerson extra effort to harvest near the stream in a manner that protected a buffer zone along the waterway. He also was able to selectively log the tract while protecting younger trees, helping keep the site’s aesthetic appeal for area residents.”

“I really wanted to make it good for the city of Butte Falls. More than anything, I wanted to make sure everything was good with them and they liked the way it turned out. It was tough, but I wanted to make sure that they were happy with it,” says Wilkerson, adding that his crew is the reason his outfit won the award. “Those guys are the ones that made it happen.”

Dave Wilkerson Logging, Rogue Valley, Oregon“I’m a CAT guy,” says Wilkerson. His equipment includes two CAT 324Ds with Pierce 3348 stroke delimbers, a CAT 324, and a CAT 538 loader, along with a CAT 525C skidder and a CAT 527 track skidder.

Everyday Obstacles Overcome

Along with being the entrance to Butte Falls, the unit presented several challenges to Wilkerson and his crew. “We had a lot of tough stuff to deal with. We had bigger trees leaning over the power lines, trees on both sides of the Butte Falls Highway, pedestrians walking through the site, and a fish stream on the north end of the tract that had to be protected,” says Wilkerson.

The project also had many other safety issues not necessarily common at logging sites. “I had to take some of my guys and put a fence up on both ends while we were logging it,” Wilkerson says. “It was adjacent to the town, and people walked through the site coming into and out of town. Because we were on both sides of the highway, we had to have certified flaggers to handle the vehicle traffic. Whenever we were working on the highway, we had to shut it down on both ends and wait until the tree was down before we could do anything.”

Wilkerson explains some of the different techniques he used to take down trees near the road and stream and off the powerlines. “You couldn’t fall the trees face away from the highway. You had to kind of quarter them a little bit because they were so tall that they had a chance to hit [the road]. We used synthetic rope to pull the trees over and fell them that way, to get them without knocking everything down too.”

Wilkerson also used his feller buncher to shove the trees to fall in the desired direction. “I used the buncher to push them over too. It was a really awesome way to do it. You do almost all the fall with the buncher and then just shove it over. Worked really well.”

In addition to saving leave trees and clearing understory fuels, Wilkerson skidded all the brush to the landing, spreading enough to cover everything. “There was a main skid road right next to the highway, and I actually decommissioned it. I put brush in it and smoothed it out so you don’t have to look at a great big long skid trail that runs parallel to the highway for 1,500 feet,” he says.

The rest of the brush was piled up and hauled back to the landing. Instead of burning it, the slash went to hog fuel.

Recognizing that going above and beyond the call of duty can be expensive, Wilkerson says it really made a difference. “When you see the project, you’ll see that’s what makes it look better than the rest.”

Dave Wilkerson Logging currently employs a crew of five and runs Caterpillar equipment. “I’m a CAT guy,” says Wilkerson. His equipment roster lines up with two CAT 324Ds with Pierce 3348 stroke delimbers, a CAT 324, and a CAT 538 loader, along with a CAT 525C skidder and a CAT 527 track skidder. He also utilizes a 2018 Komatsu 460 feller buncher.

Wilkerson contracts all his hauling with Charles Ireland Trucking out of Myrtle Creek, Oregon.

“I think CAT equipment is better built. It’s quality. The resale is always better,” he says. “The service from Peterson CAT in Medford is quality too. The service and support from Modern Machinery in Eugene has also helped a lot.”

Dave Wilkerson Logging, Rogue Valley, OregonWilkerson had been on the same tree farm long enough to have logged some of the same pieces for four different landowners.

The Genesis of a Logging Philosophy

Wilkerson began his journey as many loggers have done. Right out of high school, he went to work in the woods. “Living in the Rogue Valley, when you got out of school, you either went to work in the woods or at the mill. I went to work in the woods,” he says. “It was just CAT logging back then. Land chaser. I did some yarding, setting chokers — that kind of thing. And then I started falling timber. Soon after I was doing contract falling for a few outfits.”

To supplement his work contract falling, Wilkerson did some skidder work for small landowners and then, as he tells it, “I got lucky.”

Around the mid-90s, Wilkerson met Bruno Meyer, the head forester for Medite Timber (Medite Corporation Inc.). Meyer gave Wilkerson his first contract logging job, chasing salvage with a chainsaw and skidder. It was also the start of a logging philosophy, heavily influenced by Meyer.

“Bruno was really sharp. Really good. He knew a lot about the ground. He had a lot of ideas on re-prod and leave tree selection and saving them,” says Wilkerson. “I listened to what he had to say about all that. I’ve carried his philosophy onto all my jobs. We log today the way we do because of his views.”

Soon after Medite sold to four different landowners, Wilkerson went to work for Indian Hills and eventually logged for all four of the Medite purchasers, beginning with Swanson Group until it sold to Plum Creek, where he stayed for over ten years. When Plum Creek and Weyerhaeuser merged, Wilkerson continued with Weyerhaeuser.

“I’ve been in the same tree farm for a long time. I’ve logged some of these same pieces for four different landowners.”

And should another challenging project surface, Wilkerson will be there.

TimberWest November/December 2013
November/December 2019

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