By Jan Jackson
When a roadless stand of timber must be harvested and transported across a fish-bearing stream, one’s first thought might be to build a bridge. That was Tony Hauth’s first thought too, but he didn’t like the time and money it would take to build it. The innovative solution he came up with earned him the title of 2021 Eastern Oregon Operator of the Year.
The Operator of the Year Award recognizes forest operators who, while harvesting timber or doing other forestry work, protect natural resources at a level that goes above and beyond requirements of the Oregon Forest Practices Act.
“Anyone can nominate someone,” said Jim Gerbach, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) Public Affairs Specialist. “It could be a landowner, a fellow harvester, or someone who’s admired someone’s work.” The nominator completes a form, documenting their reason for the nomination and submits the form to the regional forest practices committees. The committees review the nominations and select the winner.
Born and raised in Burns (where he still lives), Tony Hauth owns and operates H Timber Contracting LLC., taking on jobs for landowners on Oregon’s east side. It was a logging job in John Day that required the extra effort that turned out to be innovative.
Hauth’s Winning Innovation
“We had the logs on one side of the creek and the mill on the other, with no roads or any way to cross the stream without disturbing it,” Tony explained. “Fortunately, I keep a culvert on hand for times I might need a creek crossing, and we obviously had logs on hand. I ended up putting in a temporary culvert and cribbed it up with logs so when it took the weight, the culvert didn’t get smashed. We put the big processor, the whole tree processor, and the piled-up brush on the timber side of the creek and as they limbed the trees they passed the logs over to me in my log loader on the other side. I decked the logs along the road, loaded the trucks when they came in, and then went back to grabbing and decking. When we finished, we pulled the culvert, put the logs that we used on the crossing on a log truck, and sent them to the mill as well.”
Logging the Eastside
Tony believes that if you take care of the land, it will take care of you. He operates with a small crew, and his collection of equipment includes a Cat 525 rubber-tired grapple skidder, a Cat D5 high track with a grapple on the back, a 95,000-pound Link-Belt Processor, and a John Deere log loader.
Tony says his crew is a timber faller, a process operator, and a skidder operator—and Tony, himself. “Besides doing whatever is needed, I mostly cut, load, and build roads. I’m on the jobsite during the week, I have a bookkeeper that does payroll and all, and I do the rest of my paperwork on the weekends.”
They often work miles from the stands of Douglas fir and pine that Tony manages for his clients. Tony noted that his crew lives in Burns; however, in addition to working jobs as close as John Day, they will work in more distant locations such as Baker City, the Wallowa Mountains, or Spray. “When we can’t drive to work every day, we live at the logging site in our individual camping trailers.”
Industry Changes and Challenges
Tony grew up with a dad who spent his life working as a saw filer for the Edward Heinz Mill in Burns (which switched hands to Snow Mountain Pine), working in Alaska for a little bit, and returning to Louisiana Pacific’s mill until it closed. Tony, however, started logging right out of high school while he waited to go to welding school. He welds as a logger, but he liked logging so much, he never made it to welding school.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes since I started,” Tony said. “When I was a kid, you had to look both ways before crossing the street in Burns or you risked getting run over by a log truck. By 1996, though, when I was 18 or 19 and had graduated from high school, there was hardly anything going on. We had a couple of little jobs here and there, but if you saw a log truck come through town, you had a good idea the driver was lost.”
After working on the landing as a knot bumper and cutting timber for a few years, Tony started his business in 2003. He started with contract timber cutting jobs, eventually bought a skidder, and continued to add equipment.
“I think my favorite part of the job is still cutting timber. Every tree is different, and there’s a spot they need to go so you don’t tear up the other trees in case it falls on them. And of course, you don’t want to break the tree by having it hit any stumps or rocks. It adds a challenge to my working day and makes it seem shorter than it would otherwise.”
Tony explains that for bigger timber, he’ll hire two to three hand cutters, and when working in small timber, he will use a contractor with a feller buncher. “When things slow down, I’ll do all the hand cutting.”
Above and Beyond the Call
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, ODF came to Tony’s logging site to present him with his award. Asked if he was surprised to win Operator of the Year, he said he was and added he had a lot of people to thank—including his crew.
“We always try to do a real good job on all of our jobs just so it doesn’t get a bad name,” Tony said. “Besides, when you do a good job for one landowner, he tells his friends.” In addition to his crew, Tony acknowledges the contributions of their main forester, Kirk Ausland, and their private timber consultant Jeff Maben, who finds jobs, marks trees, and runs lines. “Between them and my crew, we got it done.”
Getting the job done can be challenging. The company harvests fir, pine, and juniper, but they also help clients with insect infestation as well as fire suppression. “One of the biggest challenges is when you get one of these landowners whose timber borders a national forest, which is just like being up against a wall of kindling. For those folks, we’ll make a point to cut that boundary a lot heavier than we do the rest of their timber to create, and hopefully protect them with, a firebreak.”
Tony points out that the work doesn’t happen year-round. “We get about 10 months of work a year, sometimes more if we’re lucky. It starts getting muddy over here in March and April, and it’s just not feasible to spend all the money rocking the roads,” he noted, adding, “That’s the time of year the catfish and sturgeon start calling, and it’s pretty sure you’ll find me fishing.”
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