California Couple Keeps The Focus on Stewardship, Forest Management

by | May 1, 2023 | 2023, Harvesting, May/June, TimberWest Magazine

Louis Godon grew up hearing logging stories as a young boy sitting in the back of his grandmother’s bar. That’s where loggers would go at night after a long day in the woods. Louis was only six or seven at the time, but he would settle in and listen.

“I wanted to be like one of those guys,” he remembered, “but it was different times then. The pants were cut off. The cork boots. I just thought they were pretty cool.”

He wasn’t just influenced by those men who came into the bar. His mother was a logger who got into the business as a 28-year-old mother of two. She started by subcontracting timber sales as a log truck driver.

“She had two kids to feed, and she thought that was a good opportunity and a good way to provide for them,” said Louis.

Logging provided for them then – and now. Louis, 51, worked for his mother’s company on and off in the beginning of his career. He also cut timber on a helicopter block and worked for a cutting contractor as a production feller. He and his wife, Amanda, decided to start their own business in 2000. Their company, Volcano Creek Logging, is named for a creek that runs through the property they lived on at the time.

Volcano Creek Logging is based in the community of Foresthill, which is about 50 miles northeast of Sacramento and located on the southern edge of the Tahoe National Forest. With nearly 40 employees, the company delivers about 20 million board feet of logs per year.

Louis Godon

Louis and Amanda Godon, owners and operators of Volcano Creek Logging in Foresthill, California. ‘I love what we do,’ says Amanda. ‘This life we lead, being in the woods, supporting our family of crew members, and just making a difference in our area – is huge. It gives you joy, and you feel accomplished.’

The Godons have three children – two sons and a daughter. Like her grandmother and mother, their daughter can’t wait to take her seat in a logging machine.

“I love what we do,” Amanda said. “This life we lead, being in the woods, supporting our family of crew members, and just making a difference in our area – is huge. It gives you joy, and you feel accomplished.”

Amanda has a background in business management, which she puts to good use helping to oversee the company and its finances. “Louis was raised under a strong female and logger, so he supported me being massively involved in the company and the industry,” she said.

Volcano Creek Logging buys timber and also manages a small amount of its own land. The company harvests timber in the Tahoe National Forest and on Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) land. The region supports ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. Logs are delivered to SPI mills in Lincoln, Oroville, Anderson, Shasta, and Quincy.

A recent job involved salvage logging at 6,800-foot elevation on private land. “The trees we harvested were dead,” Amanda explained. “The western pine beetle has had a massive effect on our forests, all the way down from southern Sierras to northern Sierras. It’s catastrophic. It will destroy a whole forest.”

Louis Godon

Tigercat LH855E leveling track harvester processes a log after felling. Volcano Creek Logging relies on Waratah harvester and processor attachments. The Tigercat is equipped with a Waratah HTH623C harvester head.

Forest Management

The impact of insect infestation is one of the reasons why the Godons are so passionate about forest management. The beetles are stealthy killers, noted Amanda; they destroy a tree and attach to the next one before the first one has shown signs of distress.

“We need to manage the forest,” said Amanda. “We need to thin it and make it healthy. Then when we have droughts or bug infestations, if the forest is managed, then it’s more resilient.”

Resilience is required of any logger – in the woods and in public opinion. The Godons say most people don’t understand logging and how it benefits plant and animal life.

“I love caring for the land,” Amanda said. “I wish that I could convey to every part of our society what needs to happen for the forest to be managed properly. We wouldn’t have catastrophic fires. We would have beautiful forests. The trees would grow well. This is a sustainable product that we can grow and harvest.”

The Godons feel the direct impact of massive forest fires that have struck the West in recent years through challenging conditions in the saw log market. Wood has to be processed as quickly as possible, and the fires result in mills flooded with burned timber, which also impacts the ability of landowners to sell their timber.

Good Stewards

The Godons take their responsibility seriously to be good stewards. “We have to do everything right,” Amanda said. “Our footprint has to be light. We cannot have damage, nor do we want damage. We want to go out there and do a good job. We want to give logging a great name.”

Volcano Creek Logging relies on Waratah harvester and processor attachments. The Godons chose Waratah for its durability and reliability. A Cat 552 leveling feller buncher is matched with a Waratah HTH624C harvester head, and a Tigercat LH855E leveling track harvester is paired with a Waratah HTH623C harvester head. The company does business with equipment dealers Holt of California in Pleasant Grove, which represents Cat, and Bejac out of Anderson, which represents Tigercat and TimberPro.

The Waratah HTH624C is the larger of the two harvester attachments mentioned above and are models in the company’s 600 series of attachments. It has been proven in medium to large wood harvesting and processing. The Waratah HTH624C can easily handle species such as radiata pine, poplar, and aspen up to 32 inches in diameter. It features a rugged frame, large synchronized feed rollers, excellent drive power, precision delimbing for production – whether working at a landing or felling and processing at the stump.

The Waratah 624C also features a rear-mounted head module for increased protection and less shock load, increased top-saw cut capacity, superior hose routing, upsized main saw, strengthened hanging bracket, wider frame, and a number of feed-roller options. It can be paired with the TimberRite control and measuring system for precision processing, even in extreme conditions.

“Waratah products are built to work,” said Louis. “They’re the best as far as I’m concerned. With the right operator, we can get 30 to 40 loads a day in the right material.”

The Godons value Waratah products for efficiency in the forest, and they know they can count on the company with product support to minimize downtime. “Waratah has been there for us,” said Amanda. “They have actually walked us through a repair, down to having something shipped for us overnight. We’ve had a support guy drive parts down so we can be up and running right away. The support is bar none.”

Volcano Creek Logging also is equipped with, among other things, two TimberPro feller bunchers, two Cat shovel loaders, six Cat skidders, plus supporting equipment.

Family and Future

The Godons have made strategic decisions about their future, creating two affiliated business units. A trucking unit hauls logs and equipment and also subcontracts to haul for other loggers. The other business unit provides services to masticate vegetation to reduce fuels and also performs fire suppression work. “We have diversified over the years, hopefully making us less affected by the extreme highs and lows of our industry,” said Amanda.

Every employee is trained and certified in first aid, CPR and firefighting. Volcano Creek Logging offers health insurance, dental insurance, and a retirement plan.

Volcano Creek Logging is an active member of Associated California Loggers, American Logging Council, and the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference. The company earned Firewise USA ® recognition for its community.

Going on 23 years in business, the Godons hope their children will one day run Volcano Creek Logging. “We have children that want to be here, and hopefully once we’re dead and gone, the children will take over and have the same philosophies as we do,” Amanda said. “I’m proud of what we’ve built and our succession.”

Inspired by their children, Louis and Amanda said there’s nowhere to go but up for Volcano Creek Logging.

“My middle boy wants a big helicopter,” Louis said. “He’s got big plans to fly logs. We’ll see what happens.”

Forestnet

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