By Dawn Killough
“If you don’t treat people right, you don’t have anything.” Spoken by Wally Plikat, this mantra has been the guiding principle for Plikat Logging of Roseburg, Oregon, since the company began in 1981. Growing up in a logging town, Wally said there was no question about what he would do for a living. Since then, he has built a successful company that remains family-owned and family-oriented.
Plikat Logging provides logging services for private landowners in the Umpqua Valley. It currently employs 70 to 75 full-time, year-round workers and processes 20 to 25 million board feet annually.
Like many companies in the industry, Plikat struggles to recruit young people to logging as a career. Wally and his team have been proactively reaching out to attract as many workers as they can. They provide good pay and benefits in a family-oriented business that has a reputation for having low turnover and keeping its workers busy. “It just seems like many of the younger generation don’t really want to work,” Wally said.
Plikat Logging was selected for the second time as the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon Operator of the Year in 2021 for their work on the Front Shield unit near Camas Valley. The unit, owned by Sierra Pacific Industries (formerly Seneca Jones), is located along State Highway 42 and had several challenges. Plikat dealt with two high-energy distribution power lines that crisscrossed the unit, a busy highway on the border, a stream that cut through the area, and tough summer conditions.
“We had three goals that we set for Wally in this challenging unit,” said Gary Mendenhall of Sierra Pacific. “We had public safety we had to be concerned with. We had the Forest Practices Act we had to be concerned with. Then we also had a couple sets of power lines running through the middle of the unit that he had to contend with. He met all those goals and went above and beyond to make sure that it was accomplished and did a very good job doing it.”
Meeting the Challenges
Jeff Plikat, Logging Supervisor and Wally’s son, said they were in constant contact with the local electric utility, letting them know when work began and finished each day. The daily communication was needed to ensure that if any outages occurred the utility could respond swiftly to minimize downtime. They also worked with the utility to shut down power when removing dangerous trees that threatened the wires.
A busy highway ran alongside the unit, and Plikat reduced the impact of their work by performing most of it along the highway during the nighttime hours. They also directed logging traffic to merge with highway traffic, instead of creating a T-intersection. This reduced the impact of logging equipment on the flow of traffic. Plikat also used extensive signage to keep motorists informed about the activity occurring in the area.
The presence of wetlands and streams in the unit also posed a challenge. Most of the harvesting on the unit was done through cable logging, which can’t be used near water. They also worked diligently to maintain the required buffer zones to protect wildlife and water quality.
“With Shields Creek being at the bottom, we wanted to ensure that there wasn’t going to be any sediment delivery to a fish-bearing stream or to any of those protected wetlands,” said ODF Stewardship Forester Brett Nixon. “The post logging work that they did ensured that there wasn’t going to be sediment delivery to the streams.”
Jeff Plikat says, “We always treat the land as if it was ours.” The crew worked hard to shape and mold the land after work was completed to ensure that it was ready to be replanted. This respect for the land, power customers, motorists, and the environment was the reason Plikat Logging was selected for recognition by ODF for the second time.
Plikat was selected for the same award in 2016 for their work on a unit of private timberland west of Drain, Oregon, in the Brush Creek area. The Operator of the Year award recognizes companies that show how to manage the forest and protect natural resources. One operator is selected from each region of the state each year.
The Front Shield unit took six weeks to log approximately one million board feet of timber. The work was completed during May and June 2020, and the project employed up to 12 workers at a time. The equipment on-site included a 290 Link-Belt processor with a 623 Waratah head, a Cat 320 log loader shovel, and a Thunderbird 6140 swing yarder. Sierra Pacific was pleased with the condition of the unit when Plikat left. Mendenhall said, “I call him a magician. He’s really good at devising a plan and executing. He has really good people that work for him. They’re all conscientious, real easy to work with. I think he looks at it like it’s his ground, and he wants it to look nice and be able to reproduce trees.”
The Drain unit was near a Class 1 fish-bearing stream, and logs were flown over the stream to avoid significant impacts. The work also involved downhill logging over a long distance. Plikat used a TTY 70 yarder with a Bowman sky car in the operations.
A Family-Owned Business
In the early years of the company, Plikat Logging was mainly a yarder-based operation. They purchased four yarders in the ‘80s, including a 1983 Thunderbird PSY 200, followed by a TSY 50. In the late ‘80s they began to include ground-based logging with the addition of a D-6 Caterpillar and a 600 Prentice shovel. They also have a fleet of trucks, both logging and lowboys. Having their own trucks allows them to get their jobs cleaned up fast without having to wait for someone else.
This family business is in good hands. Along with Jeff, Wally’s daughter Stefanie and son-in-law Steve Cummings are active in the business. Stefanie runs the office and Steve is involved in operations.
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