Private Tree Farm Fuels Business for Nichols Logging

by | Apr 11, 2024 | 2024, Harvesting, March/April 2024, TimberWest Magazine

RAINIER, OREGON –  When Dan Kloppman was 16 and started working summers and school breaks for Teen Trees, a youth in forestry nonprofit program, he never imagined he would end up working in the woods full-time. Now, 41-years later, he is still there, but as president and CEO of Nichols Logging.

Nichols Logging is a two-man outfit, Kloppman and his youngest son, Noah. He subcontracts other loggers for some tasks. Most of the company’s work is on Kloppman’s tree farm, which is nestled in the foothills of Oregon’s Coast Range. His tree farm is an example of how private landowners can be adversely impacted by Oregon’s new Private Forest Accord Initiative.

Dan Kloppman (left) with his son, Noah, are a two-man operation. Kloppman subcontracts other loggers for some tasks.

Nichols Logging is based in Rainier, Oregon, which is bordered on the north by the Columbia River some 50 miles north of Portland and 50 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. The region is part of the largest temperate rainforest system in the world, stretching from Northern California to British Columbia. Northwest Oregon averages 54 inches of rain a year and has abundant forests of Douglas fir, Western red cedar, Sitka spruce, Western hemlock, and alder.

Kloppman offers a wide variety of services, although he specializes in cut-to-length logging.

He takes pride in operating all of his own equipment, and he’s teaching his son to do the same. When he was looking to hire during the pandemic, he found all the good workers were too busy, and some loggers went out of business, so he purchased his own feller buncher and is learning how to operate it himself.

Kloppman has a fondness for Rottne cut-to-length logging equipment, which is manufactured in Sweden. Rottne, which manufactures harvesters, forwarders, and harvester attachments, has one dealer in the Pacific Northwest: Precision Machinery in Eugene, Oregon. Kloppman owns a Rottne SMV EGS harvester and a Rottne Rapid forwarder. He has been favorably impressed by the machine quality and the fact that they require little maintenance. “I would love to add a new pair of Rottnes,” he said.

He recently purchased a used TimberKing TK1162 track feller buncher with a Waratah harvester attachment to work on steep terrain and in big timber. Kloppman usually operates the Rottne harvester or the TimberKing feller buncher. His son usually operates the Rottne Rapid forwarder and is also learning how to run the other equipment. The company also has a Timberjack 450C dual arch cable-grapple skidder. A Cat bulldozer is used for building roads and excavating on five gravel pits on Kloppman’s land, and he also has an Allis-Chalmers wheel loader working in the gravel pits.

Kloppman purchased this used TimberKing TK1162 track feller buncher with a Waratah harvester attachment mainly to work on steep terrain and in big timber.

Kloppman likes the Rottne forwarder both because of the high quality and because he can do many repairs himself. “The tech support is there for the complex electronics,” he added.

Casey Ferguson, one of the owners of Precision Machinery, said his dealership would go broke if they had to rely on keeping Kloppman supplied with Rottne parts. Kloppman maintains the machines so well that they last a long time, he said.

Precision Machinery is a dealer for Rottne, Eltec, and the Ecoforst T-Winch line. The company signed an agreement last year to become the exclusive dealer in the Western U.S. for Eltec, which manufactures harvesters, feller bunchers, shovel loggers and log loaders. Precision Machinery also represents Quadco, Southstar, and LogMax forestry attachments.

LVF Machines, under the operation of Long View Forest in Hartland, Vermont, is the U.S. distributor of Rottne equipment. It recently opened a facility in Portland, Oregon. In addition to Precision Machinery, Rottne is represented by other dealers in the Great Lakes, Northeast, and Canada.

A member of Associated Oregon Loggers and the Oregon Small Woodlands Association, Kloppman harvests nearly 400,000 board feet of timber annually on his property and about another 100,000 board feet on other private forests. He mainly thins stands with timber that is 20-48 years old. “I have targeted the smaller landowner just because this type of equipment is generally not available to them,” he said, “and I’m just not interested in competing with the big boys.”

Most mills he supplies are located within about a 50-mile drive. They include RSG Forest Products in Mist, Stimson Lumber in Forest Grove and Clatskanie, and Interfor in Longview, Washington. Kloppman contracts Dale Witham and Teevin Brothers Trucking in Rainier and Dass Trucking out of Vernonia.

Roger Nichols founded Nichols Logging in the Portland area in 1951. He cleared land for college campuses, using horses, cutting and selling 10-foot stakes for railroad cars. He bought 200 acres of land about 15 miles from Rainier in 1963.

“When this part of the county’s timberland was developed, the big guys bought the high country, and the smaller outfits like Roger’s bought the lower,” said Kloppman. “The place was primarily grass land that he planted to forest.

Nichols had a heart to help people in foreign countries suffering from natural disasters and military conflicts. He and his wife, Lynn, started a program called Teen Trees, using profits from making alder poles to buy goods for needy people abroad and sending them in shipping containers. To help them do that, they contracted with the former Comprehensive Employment and Training Act program for young workers, and Teen Trees and CETA shared the cost of hiring and training young workers.

In 1983, 16-year-old Kloppman was one of those workers. He was ‘adopted’ by the Nicholses two years later. “In high school, I was learning to work with metals in class as a career, and now those welding classes are serving me well in the woods,” Kloppman said.

“At Teen Trees I was made a full-time foreman, working with the high school and college kids,” Kloppman recalled, “and I led individual teams under him. We did about everything, including cutting alder sticks and poles with machetes and chainsaws and delivering them to the aluminum plant across the river in Longview, Washington. In addition, I helped gather, ship, and distribute the containers, which meant over the years I got to travel to 24 different countries.”

Kloppman’s two sons, Daniel and Noah, have worked for him. However, Daniel, the eldest, “let me know from the start that he didn’t want it as a career.” Noah has worked with him for two years “and loves the work.”

When Kloppman talks about the future, his outlook loses some enthusiasm, thanks to the onset of Oregon’s new Private Forest Accord Initiative, which took effect this year. The program has negatively impacted nearly 20 percent of his tree farm. The initiative bans any logging activity on land within 110 feet of the large, fish-bearing Clatskanie River, from the high water mark on both sides of the river, which runs for two miles through the middle of Kloppman’s property

When you add the width of the stream, it becomes a 255-foot-wide, two-mile-long swath through his land that cannot be logged, although Kloppman must continue to pay taxes on it. “The 90-acres of 30- to 100-year-old Douglas fir that has been taken away represents about a $2 million loss of revenue for me,” he said.

Kloppman testified against the initiative during the regulatory process. “We should be compensated for our loss,” added Kloppman, “and there was supposed to be a plan to do that by last July, but we haven’t heard from that either.”

Dan Kloppman felling with his Rottne SMV EGS harvester. He specializes in cut-to-length logging. Kloppman harvests timber on his own tree farm as well as working for other private landowners.

“We were given one year to remove what we could,” said Kloppman, “with the caveat that we had to go through and mark each tree with a number, measure it, record how much the basal area is, and target the ones to remove from the Riparian Management Areas (RMA).” Kloppman had to turn down work for regular clients last year in order to devote all his time to salvaging what he could on his own land.

The covid pandemic negatively affected the availability of other logging contractors and truckers, so Kloppman and his son have done most of the work on his land, hand felling since some of the timber is 90-plus years old.

Kloppman has contracted with Steve Berg and Berlog Inc. to help harvest big timber. He also has contracted with Ramos Reforestation for nearly 30 years. “We have had excellent results with them, probably 98-plus percent survival rate. They also do young plantation thinnings and competitive brush cutting around seedlings.”

“We used to run the cut-to-length nine months out of the year…for other landowners, and the rest of the time worked on our own property – logging, thinning, road building, reforestation, maintaining equipment.”

This year Kloppman expects to be able to resume doing cut-to-length logging for small landowners who are on long-standing contracts. That will be an opportunity for him to further train his son and for Noah to gain more experience. “He is the future of the company and the tree farm,” said Kloppman.

Kloppman still travels as a disaster relief volunteer with his church to places like Peru and Mexico. Between working and volunteer trips, he doesn’t do much vacationing.

“This year is going to be different though,” he said. He and his wife, Angie, made a trip to Hawaii in February to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

Jan Jackson

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