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Joe Hackenberg manages 171 acres. Here he uses his 75 HP John Deere 5075e wheel tractor equipped with a 60” Ryan grapple.
Small Management, Different Styles
By Wayne Jeffers
In Northwest Oregon, three neighboring forestland owners provide a case study in divergent approaches to forestland management. Differences in mindset, experience, available equipment, financial resources, and the size of the properties being managed give rise to wide variation in philosophies and practices.
Kathleen McLaughlin purchased 23 acres with a mature mixed stand three years ago and is new to forest management. Living adjacent to a Longview Timber parcel, she is at the other end of the management spectrum. For her, the trees have more value for aesthetics than for stumpage. She admits she is on a steep learning curve and carefully considers how the advice of those more knowledgeable meshes with her goals.
Kathleen seeks a “wholistic” approach to management but is uncertain what that will include. Her current plan is to selectively thin, harvesting dead/dying trees under advisement of her logging contractor who comprehends her goals. She is committed to leaving at least 20 percent of the mature fir trees untouched and is trying to figure out how to harvest and replant small areas yet allow for future harvest that will not damage reproduction. Commercial harvests are limited each year to minimize tax obligations.
Joseph Hackenberg, a neighborhood logging and tree-planting contractor, is assisting Kathleen in accomplishing her goals. Joe delights more in seeing trees grow than harvesting them as demonstrated on his own 171 acres of forestland. For years, while harvesting and replanting trees for others, he has been establishing his own forest legacy by thinning his existing stands and establishing others where strawberry fields once flourished.
Joe’s efforts demonstrate the exceptional growth potential trees possess under the right conditions. Planted in rows with an 11 x 7 foot spacing after extensive site preparation, genetically selective Douglas fir seedlings have produced 24’ saw logs with greater than five inch tops in as little as 16 years. According to Joe, spraying competing vegetation and planting dormant seedlings late in the year resulted in three years of root growth before significant top growth occurred. The result is consistently evident in 48” growth leaders each year without any signs of slowing.
Joe has begun thinning this stand by removing every fourth row to sell as saw logs or pulp. Removal of understory and substandard stems in remaining rows will follow, with plans to perpetually commercially thin until a mature forest is established.
Until recently, Joe’s harvesting relied on a Komatsu D68E1A with a 15 foot swing grapple, a D58E1A line machine and a winch equipped 4 x 4 John Deere 1070 tractor. However, to more efficiently thin 120 acres of trees in rows, Joe purchased a 2005 John Deere 80C excavator and equipped it with an Arbro 400 dangle head able to fell and process trees up to 18” on the stump.
Forwarding is accomplished by a fuel-sipping 75 HP John Deere 5075e wheel tractor equipped with a 60” Ryan grapple. Joe’s son George operates the grapple-equipped JD 5075e, which is used extensively in most of Joe’s logging operations because of its power, flexibility, and economy. Recently George skidded three truckloads of logs in one day on a single 18 gallon tank of fuel.
Jeff Mullins demonstrates how his sawmill can gain valuable lumber from this small alder log removed from Jeff’s property as part of a thinning operation. Joseph Marwa is visiting from Tanzania, Africa and he and Jeff are discuss the possibilities of operating a sawmill in that country to help support local church and mission work.
Jeff Mullins, like neighbor Kathleen, experienced a steep learning curve having purchased a home on 14 forested acres 17 years ago. Now he micro-manages 56 acres of “previously abused forest orphans” admitting he has gleaned much from neighbors like Joe Hackenberg as well as learning all he can from written resources.
While all his properties display park-like settings that would thrill most environmentalists, Jeff also strives for maximum profit and forest product utilization for the near and distant future.” According to Nato Pacios-Rivera, a forester with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Jeff’s intense management style is more typical of that of European small woodland owners than what is practiced in America where forest resources are more abundant.
To rehabilitate the forest, logging contractors were first hired to remove damaged or undesirable trees, thin untended stands, and scarify for replanting as needed. Wherever possible, existing trees were left to grow in viable patches of alder, fir, and cedar. Larger areas were stocked with genetically selected Douglas fir. Red Cedar and Hemlock have been liberally planted in the understory with the goal of establishing a mixed age, mixed species stand. Ongoing pre-commerical thinning optimizes growth and tree quality and provides cordwood for personal use or sale. Cedar boughs are harvested annually, allowing more light for nearby trees.
Jeff views the forest from the vantage point of flexibility and the utilization potential afforded to a portable sawmill owner. He asserts, “Owning a Wood-Mizer LT40 has changed the way I see everything. Instead of managing a forest, I manage individual trees for maximum profitability, uninterrupted sustainable harvest, stand value improvement, and potential for future commercial harvest if needed.”
Jeff Mullins transports his portable sawmill to his neighbor, Kathleen McLaughlin’s, property to help her mill and manage her 23 acres of forestland.
To illustrate, he felled a mature 24” dbh Red Alder that was hindering the growth of surrounding trees. It was bucked into 8-10 foot lengths, logs scaled at about 200 board feet that were easily removed by the tractor without damaging other stems in the tight surrounding stand. Fifteen large cedar and hemlock seedlings were transferred from Jeff’s personal nursery, staked, and netted where the one alder previously stood.
Almost 600 board feet of lumber were produced from the logs by the thin kerf sawmill. When dried and sold, Jeff expects to net over 10 times the tree’s pond value at the mill. To profit from this tree without the sawmill would have required harvesting a whole truck load of logs (not Jeff’s first choice) and yarding logs in long lengths, which wasn’t feasible without damage to standing trees.
Jeff uses a Magellan eXplorist 710 handheld GPS to tag, photograph, record audio notes, capture data, and plan needed future action in order to efficiently accomplish his management goals. In addition to milling his own trees, Jeff frequently provides sawmill services for his neighbors (including Joe and Kathleen) to help them gain value from trees that otherwise would become firewood or be left to decay.
In the end, Jeff, Kathleen, and Joseph each manage their forest for profit, but their forestland management practices arise from their different goals, experience, the equipment available, and the amount of acreage they manage.