Oregon Logger Hits ‘Sweet Spot’

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

NASHVILLE, Oregon – ShaneCo Timber was twice as big a few years ago, but owner Shane Russell scaled back the company and sold some equipment. Now he is in a ‘sweet spot.’

“I don’t want to jinx us, but we haven’t had any issues with manpower once I figured out the balance of the workload, manpower and equipment,” said Russell. “We now have a good core group of guys, and it’s made all the difference in the world. In fact, I hesitate to even call it a job because I love what I do so much.”

ShaneCo Timber is based in Nashville, which is located in Oregon’s Coast Range, almost midway between Eugene and Salem but closer to the coast. It is 30 miles each direction from the warm, dry, mild Willamette Valley to the east and the rugged terrain and inclement weather of the coast. The region has abundant resources of Douglas fir, grand fir, western hemlock, Sitka spruce and western red cedar.

Russell, 42, works primarily for private landowners. He typically does the entire harvest from start to finish. ShaneCo Timber does everything from clear-cutting to thinning and also salvage logging. The company builds its own roads unless they require extensive work, in which case Russell hires contractors to build them.

ShaneCo Timber

From left, daughter Aspen, son Alek, wife Amber, and Shane Russell. Amber is also from a long line of loggers; she is a partner in the business and takes care of the company’s finances.

The customer is always going to remember what he leaves behind, noted Russell, so he takes a lot of pride in cleaning up the job after the harvest is done. Logging slash is usually formed into piles. For liability reasons, though, Russell does not burn the piles. He lets the landowner handle that or contract for someone else to do it.

The company has 12 employees. “These are the people behind ShaneCo Timber’s success,” said Russell. “We’re very grateful for the hard work they do.” He usually has two crews working on different jobs, sometimes three in the summer, depending on the workload. “However, if we’re up against a deadline, we will sometimes have ‘all hands on deck’ at one site to ensure we stay on schedule.”

When he started out, it was small landowners with about 5 acres that kept the company busy. Now the average job is about 40 acres although some thinning jobs are as big as 200 acres.

Russell relies heavily on the business relationship with a dealer and their support when it comes to buying a machine. He credits good relationships with Scott Panter at Papé Machinery in Tangent and Phil Maddux at Triad Machinery in Coburg with helping to keep the company’s equipment running. You never get back downtime, noted Russell.

His most recent investment in equipment was a John Deere 959M track feller buncher equipped with a Quadco 27C hot saw that was purchased from Papé Machinery, which represents John Deere. The 959M is powered by a John Deere PowerTech™ Plus engine that generates 330 hp. It has nearly 84,000 pounds of tractive force and can lift 17,570 pounds at maximum reach. The feller buncher has cab leveling, and a slope monitoring system is optional.

Russell added the machine to increase production. He cited the machine’s operator comfort, hydraulic oil flow, and lifting power. “Jon Walker, (buncher operator) our newest team member, helped in making this decision,” he said. “He is used to running these machines and is very good at it. And we all agree that Pape’s service is top-notch.”

ShaneCo Timber

Jon Walker operates a John Deere 959 track feller buncher with Quadco 27C hot saw for ShaneCo Timber. The company added the machine to increase production.

ShaneCo Timber also is equipped with a John Deere 959M buncher with a Quadco 27B head for felling. It has a John Deere 803MH track harvester matched with a Waratah 622C and a Link-Belt 3740 with a Waratah 623C for processing logs. Loading is handled by a pair of Link-Belt 3740 log loaders with Pierce grapples. Yarding operations are conducted with a Madill 071 Tower, a Hitachi ZX350 excavator set up as a yoder, and Acme 23H and 10H carriages. In addition, a pair of John Deere 650K dozers are equipped with John Deere 4000S winches. The company also has a Cat 420F backhoe.

Russell delivers a lot of wood to the Interfor sawmill in Philomath and the Western Cascade Industries sawmill in Toledo. Other customers include Murphy Veneer (Sweet Home), Hull-Oakes Lumber Co. (Monroe), Hampton Lumber (Willamina), Swanson Brothers Lumber (Noti), Zip-O-Log Mills (Eugene), and Sierra Pacific Industries (Eugene). All those hauls are within 100 miles of Nashville.

Markets have been good, Russell indicated. “Honestly, a lot of the local mills’ domestic pricing has been pretty good, which is an incentive to keep our business as local as we can,” he said. “We only run into issues during summer when we kind of ramp up production of ground-based-type work.”

Russell contracts for all hauling. The company has “a great source of owner-operators who take good care of us throughout the year,” he said. “T&M Trucking, our number one company from nearby Eddyville, even does our dispatch. Keeping good relationships with our local mills helps keep our trucking turnaround down.”

Russell grew up in this region of Oregon and comes from a logging family. “Dad, his brother, Bob, and their dad, Rob, ran Triple R Logging for a long time before giving it up in the ’90s when the federal government dramatically reduced logging to protect the northern spotted owl,” said Russell. “I got into working in the woods at a young age by helping them every weekend that I could.” Later he also worked part-time for his father-in-law, Ronny Gassner, who was instrumental in helping Russell start his business.

When he and his father, Don, decided to go into business together, they were hand felling for Bruer Contract Cutting, and Russell also was working part-time as an arborist. “We worked up our logs with a chainsaw until we got stable enough to start buying equipment,” said Russell. ShaneCo Timber is a corporation set up in his name “but to me, Dad and I are partners.”

“I’m not so sure that my parents would have chosen this career path for me, but being able to work with my dad for a long time has been great,” Russell said.

ShaneCo Timber

Link-Belt machine loads a log truck. ShaneCo Timber contracts for all hauling. ‘T&M Trucking, our number one company from nearby Eddyville, even does our dispatch,’ says Shane Russell.

His father, known as ‘Papa Don,’ continues to work and most days runs a loader. He is 67 but has no immediate plans to retire. “He is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known,” said Russell. “Due to his work ethic and knowledge of our industry, he is very respected and very good at what he does.”

A typical day for Russell is “doing whatever the men need me to do.” His first priority is getting new work, then cutting timber, working the rigging, operating the Link-Belt 3740 processor and building roads. “My wife usually tries to pin me down once a week or so to help out in the office.” They have an office in their home but this summer plan to build a new office next to the company’s shop.

Russell is a stickler for safety and proud of his company’s safety record. “We take safety very seriously, and our men know it,” he said. “We have monthly on-site safety meetings, and we’re always talking about safety. Our outstanding record shows the crew buys into it.”

His wife, Amber, also comes from a long line of loggers. She is a partner in the business and takes care of the company’s finances. “I like to point out that I married up and am lucky that she just hasn’t figured that out yet,” said Russell.

Russell keeps a handle on insurance and all required certifications. He maintains memberships in Associated Oregon Loggers and Oregon Professional Loggers.

Russell has a great reputation with his customers, noted Panter. “Shane…has an exceptional reputation with everyone in his area,” said Panter. “He worked for a couple of the larger forestry guys around, so he kind of cut his teeth with them. He started small, but because of the person he is and his background, people just want to work with him.”

Maddux has long ties to the Russell family, having sold equipment to Shane’s father and also his father-in-law. “He’ll call me and say, ‘Look Phil, I’m thinking about doing this, and what do you think?’ I give him my opinion,” said Maddux, “and he tries to take whatever opinions he’s received and make an educated decision on what he wants to purchase. He’s smart, he’s young, and he takes good care of his crew and his equipment. He’s just one of the guys that I really enjoy.”

Russell’s son, Alek, 19, is a student at Boise State University. His daughter, Aspen, 16, is in high school. He and his wife like to spend as much time with them as possible.

“My next biggest hobby outside of family and work is elk hunting,” said Russell. “Everyone around here shuts down operations for a week or so and goes hunting. A lot of the guys I hunt with, I work with, and that includes clients, sub-contractors, truckers, people running the mills, the same guys we see at ball games and in town having breakfast. That’s what it’s like living and working in a community like this, and I love it.”

Jan Jackson



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