By Lindsay R. Mohlere
Mark Gustafson, president of Gustafson Logging Company in Astoria, Oregon, doesn’t mince words when he talks about his commitment to quality and what it means to his company’s reputation.
“What makes the New England Patriots a better football team than most of the rest of the NFL?” It’s establishing goals, not compromising those goals, caring about what you do and the people that are out there,” he says. “Compromising the quality of work is not acceptable. Our guys are extremely productive, and yet do a great job. To me, that’s our reputation up here in the woods. To be honest, we deserve it.”
Gustafson’s commitment is well known in the timber business and beyond. He serves on many community-based boards and commissions that deal with forest management and economic development issues.
In recognition of his outstanding work and commitment, the Associated Oregon Loggers recently announced that Mark was selected for AOL’s Logger of the Year Award for 2018.
In naming Gustafson for the award, AOL President Jaime Yraguen said, “This award is intended to recognize members who have set a good example for the rest of us. Recipients typically excelled in their careers as loggers and businessmen. They have been involved in the leadership of our industry and have provided leadership in their communities. This year’s award winner qualifies on all counts.”
In addition to his multi-tasking endeavors, Mark serves as AOL’s Northwest District Representative. His company has received numerous awards and has been recognized for excellence in the industry.
Coming Back to the Family
Gustafson Logging Company was started in 1974 by Mark’s father, Duane, about the time Mark graduated from Oregon State University’s College of Forestry with a degree in Forest Engineering.
Duane, who had previously worked for Wulger & Warila Logging Company until they dissolved, started out with virtually nothing. No equipment and no help, but he had landed a contract to log in the God’s Valley area near the North Fork of the Nehalem River. At that point, Mark, along with his brothers Wade and Clay, joined their father and went to work. It was a steep learning curve for the Gustafson family, but the addition of a used Allis-Chalmers HD6, complete with drum and fairlead, a new chainsaw, some salvaged cable, and other assorted rigging, Gustafson Logging started to make its mark in the forests and tree farms of the Northwest.
Mark worked with his brothers and dad for a few months, then left the business to put his degree to work. “I worked for the company for a few months until I got a job with a big forest products company up on Vancouver Island, BC. I was up there for two and a half years, and then decided that I wanted to work for the family business. I came back in ’77. Been here ever since.”
Growth the Hard Way
Growing a business is never easy. In the beginning, Gustafson Logging etched out a good living for all involved but stayed relatively small. In the early 80s, the company incorporated and began to evolve into a much larger outfit due to increased opportunities through an association with Longview Fiber.
The company began adding equipment and personnel as the logging contracts dictated.
In 1984, Gustafson bought their first yarder and added cable logging to their skidding operation. Currently, Gustafson Logging fields three sides, two of which are yarder outfits and one ground-based side.
“We have had, for about the last 15 years, Madill 172s,” says Mark. “We really like them. Earlier on, we had 071s and a HAWK yarder. For the mix we have up here it’s the 172s that fit the country we log in the best. At times we’re a bit oversized, but we have our share of big canyons, and you need one of those big yarders to do the job. Anymore, if we’re not logging 1,000 feet, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth setting the yarder up. But of course, we do it.”
In addition to the Madill towers, Gustafson relies on Deere and Link-Belt loaders and processors to get the job done. His stable of forest machines includes two John Deere 3156s with Waratah heads and a Link-Belt 240 equipped with a Pierce stroker. In addition, Gustafson runs three older D8s that are used for tail holds and a John Deere 527 dozer and skidder. “We bought one of the Deere 3156 processors and a Link-Belt 4040 shovel last year,” Mark says. “We’ll probably buy a couple loaders or shovels this year. Anyway, that’s the plan.”
The company also sticks to an equipment philosophy meant to keep the iron working for the crew rather than the crew working on the iron. “We’ve always been of the mind that we are going out to log every day, which means our equipment needs to be running every day. With things like loaders, processors, that type of thing, we start looking at turning them at about 7,000 hours, which is about three years,” says Mark.
When purchasing new machines, Gustafson recognizes some equipment brands have more appeal than others, but if the price of a machine is somewhat similar, he will defer to what the operator would rather run.
Currently, Mark and his son Chad are company principals, running the three sides and employing 29 people. Both falling and hauling are contracted out. The company has worked for Stimson, along with Greenwood Resources, Weyerhaeuser, and Hampton.
A Bittersweet Ax Man
In 2007, the first season of the History Channel’s reality series called Ax Men featured Gustafson Logging as the show’s main subject. At the time, Mark thought it would be a good idea, but that thought quickly vanished after he saw the first episodes.
“Ax Men was a sweet and sour experience. We were approached in ’07 when they began season one. We happily decided to be part of it, even though we didn’t receive a dime for being on the program. We saw it as a way to show the world what we do and how we care,” Mark says. “After the program started airing, it became obvious that Hollywood’s intent was a little different than what we were hoping to have on the show. We made it through the first season, but that was the end of our acting career.”
Logger, First and Foremost
Mark Gustafson readily admits to having a great deal of pride in his operation and the crews that work for him. He knows that other loggers would say his company does a good job. That they work hard — that they are productive and do the job right.
“The thing I am proudest about is from the time my dad started the company, our intent was to go out and log, and do things the best way we knew how, and as we added crew and equipment, we created a family atmosphere with a whole bunch of people that care about each other and what they do every single day. We’ve been able to not have to compromise those principals. And to have the reputation that we do, to me, it’s great,” he says.
“You know,” Mark adds, “Anyone who has a passion about a career they want to pursue, and logging is no exception, relies on their family for support. I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I have been fortunate to have that support from my wife Melinda and our kids, to have logged with my Dad for 20 years, and hopefully with my son for 20 more.”
ON THE COVER
Wayne Stone’s crew members L-R: Ray Gamble, Jerry Warren, Zach Stone, Chance Maynard, Cody Henderson, Josh Meeks, John Burley, and Wayne Stone
Paying Attention to Goals Pays Off
Gustafson Logging Company receives AOL’s Logger of the Year Award in 2018.
Feet in the Past — Poised for the Future
For almost 40 years Wayne Stone Logging has kept in the game and met challenges head on.
Taking to the Skies
Bridgewater Logging adds a drone to its fleet.
Getting the Most from Your Tires
Not paying close attention to a good tire maintenance program can, over time, cost an operation thousands of dollars.
Albach Diamant 2000
Demonstration of an all-in-one chipper.
An update on the various grapple carriages on the market.
A Talk with Pat Weiler
A Q&A with the new owner of Cat’s purpose-built forestry business.
Forestnet launches a new forest jobs website — forestnetjobs.com.
Why industry professional must concern themselves with greenhouse gas emissions.