There are no skidders or tracked feller bunchers within the 20-piece logging fleet owned by Prince George, B.C.-based Freya Logging. Their fleet consists primarily of wheeled harvesters and forwarders—and that’s by design.
Company forester Liam Parfitt describes the majority of their harvesting activity as “selective logging where most of the merchantable wood is removed”. Overall, they leave more standing structure and understorey in the forest while creating less ground disturbance compared to conventional clearcut logging using feller bunchers and skidders—and what Freya Logging is doing has lately caught the attention of other loggers and several forest companies.
Their fleet and logging method is without a doubt an alternative approach and could rightly be described as following the European model. However, the question for Canadian loggers has always been economics. Parfitt says that they are competitive with conventional logging.
“We can compete with conventional logging on a clearcut and we can do it cheaper than they can on selective logging,” he says.
What could be driving this recent interest in Freya Logging’s approach is the issue of ‘social license’ becoming more prominent within forest management circles, where governments and timber license holders are demanding a more careful logging style to earn benefits, such as maintaining habitat and biodiversity. Greater uptake of this style of logging remains to be seen, although Freya Logging is finding no lack of work these days.
“The ethics of forestry is changing and we have more values to consider now,” says Parfitt. “I think that we at Freya Logging are at that point where we are realizing the value of what we are doing, and we have been rewarded for that.”
Freya Logging definitely has deep European roots. It is partly owned by Parfitt and his Swedish wife, Sofia. Another share is owned by Claudia and Olaf Weber.
The Webers moved to Canada from Germany about 10 years ago. Olaf, a trained mechanic, was the company’s service supervisor until his recent retirement. The majority of the company is now owned by Mirko and Suzanne Jansen who recently re-located to Canada from Switzerland. Jansen is the company’s general manager and holds a four-year diploma specifically related to logging. Also, about half of their equipment operators come from Europe.
Parfitt, who has a forestry degree from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), says having spent time in Sweden with his wife, he noted the difference between how logging was managed in B.C.—despite the goals stated on paper—vs. how it was being managed in Sweden, where he felt that logging was being implemented properly. It definitely influenced his attitude when he and his family returned to Canada.
“What I saw in Sweden was that there was a technological difference between how they log there compared to here, and many times technology drives the logging approach more than anything else,” he says.
When he returned to Canada in 2006, “I committed myself to forwarding the technology of Scandinavian logging systems in B.C.”
It was tough sledding to gain acceptance for this logging style as he worked in several equipment sales jobs, and then for a B.C.-based logging company with some experience with European harvesters and forwarders. Eventually, and to Parfitt’s dismay, because of employee resistance within the company, they abandoned their harvesters in favor of conventional logging.
But he was undaunted, striking out on his own with the Webers to establish Freya Logging in 2016.
Today, with the Jansens primarily at the wheel, the company harvests in the range of 350,000 cubic metres annually, mostly for Prince George-based Carrier Lumber, but also for other clients like Lakeland Mills, West Fraser and even Jasper National Park. During the company’s first year of operation, it only performed about two percent selective logging. Today, it is more like 85 percent.
Their logging fleet comprises of eight harvesters: five wheeled and three tracked units. They also own six forwarders, three log loaders and support equipment for road building. Their wheeled harvesters consist of a new Ponsse Bear harvester, a Ponsse Scorpion harvester, two John Deere 1270G harvesters, and a Komatsu 931harvester. Their two Eltec 277 tracked harvesters are equipped with Ponsse H8 harvesting heads. Their Hitachi 210 tracked harvester is equipped with a Waratah 622 harvesting head. They own four Ponsse Elephant King forwarders, as well as a John Deere 1910 forwarder and a Ponsse Buffalo King forwarder. Their log loaders consist of a John Deere 2656 loader, a Hitachi 210 loader and a Hitachi 240 loader.
Recently, Freya Logging was selected by UNBC researchers to implement four harvesting prescriptions as part of the university’s participation in a collaborative research project across a network of different forest ecosystems throughout North America. The research project took place near Fort St. James, within a 160-hectare area of the John Prince Research Forest (JPRF). Tl’az’ten First Nation, owner of a forest tenure management company called, Tanizul Timber, co-manages the research forest with UNBC.
The goal of this Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change study is to demonstrate examples of how to integrate climate change adaptation into silvicultural planning and on-the-ground actions because of the challenges to future fibre supply that climate change represents.
Freya Logging recovered approximately 38,000 cubic metres of merchantable timber over six weeks, which JPRF sold under contract to Carrier Lumber.
The research site consisted of hybrid spruce, lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, trembling aspen, paper birch and cottonwood. The study required four different harvesting prescriptions with different levels of retention under the headings of a standard clearcut with retention, to cuts with the objective of resistance, resilience and transition. Each cutblock consisted of 10 hectare parcels.
Susan Grainger, forester and forest manager at JPRF, says that forests in that area can likely expect to endure warmer, wetter climate conditions.
“The concern is that despite a wetter climate, the increased precipitation will probably not make up for the increase in temperature. So meteorologists are anticipating drought, which is a limiting factor to some of the species that can grow here in the future,” says Grainger.
She adds that this prediction of a wetter, warmer climate drove the harvesting prescription designs developed for this research study. What will follow is scientifically evaluating a myriad of responses including growth and yield, and potentially providing forest managers with operationally achievable options for developing more resilient forests to climate change as a desired future condition of the forest.
Grainger noted that Freya Logging was able to retain more understorey vegetation with their equipment selection compared to a conventional logging contractor not part of the study but working close by, primarily because of their forwarding approach versus grapple skidding to transport logs to roadside. She was also pleased that the merchantable fibre volume recovered by Freya Logging, despite the requirement for various retention levels, showed that the logging economics can be positive and operationally viable using their style of logging.
“This is what really excites me is using technology to improve the forest to prepare it for climate change and/or using it to improve biodiversity,” says Parfitt. “We were motivated to show the value of our system beyond cubic metres per hectare, and that our system actually leaves an intact or better forest behind.”
B.C. First Nation adopts logging approach from research study on its own timber management sites
After witnessing the logging method demonstrated by Freya Logging as part of their participation in a research study aimed at creating forests that are more resilient to climate change within the John Prince Research Forest (JPRF), representatives of Tanizul Timber Ltd saw the potential to apply the same logging technique on specific sites within their own timber management holdings.
They contracted Freya Logging to apply the harvesting prescription they wanted, which according to Alex Pierre, forest planner at Tanizul Timber, was clearcut logging with non-merchantable timber and Douglas fir retention on a site-specific basis.
Tanizul Timber manages the area-based tenures held by the Tl’az’ten First Nation.
“What we liked about the Freya Logging method was that it was a new approach and a different way to manage certain stands. It was eye opening,” he says. “We thought that we could adopt their logging method—we want to be on the leading edge of good forest management.”
What they specifically liked about Freya Logging’s approach on the JPRF study was the amount of understorey and non-merchantable timber left intact using harvesters and forwarders. Typically, when using conventional logging techniques involving feller bunchers and skidders, a high percentage of the understorey and non-merchantable timber was destroyed.
The logging system deployed by Freya Logging was able to achieve those outcomes “amazingly well,” according to Pierre. They also appreciated the attractive looking final outcome.
However, he adds that because Freya Logging’s approach is more costly, Tanizul Timber is very careful on its site selection to ensure that it is spending the extra money on sites that are capable of producing their desired outcomes, recognizing that conventional clearcut logging is still an appropriate prescription on some sites. It has been a learning experience.
They intend to take follow-up LIDAR images of the sites logged by Freya Logging to be able to compare before and after imaging, to determine exactly what retention level was achieved.
Tanizul Timber is also harvesting stands heavily impacted by mountain pine beetle. So this more careful logging style has the potential to achieve higher recovery rates in stands with a high percentage of merchantable beetle blowdown.
They have hired Freya Logging to continue to harvest several of their timber management sites where they feel that Freya’s logging system is a better fit.