Contractor Profile 1
Contractor Profile 2
Contractor Profile 3
Manitoba Mill Upgrade
Bridges & Culverts
Calendar of Events
Past Issues Archive
Join our Listserve
Search Our Site
September 2006 - The
Logging and Sawmilling Journal
CONTRACTOR PROFILE 2
Former schoolteacher Susan Duquette, who took over from her
father at Ranger Logging in Northern Ontario almost 20 years ago,
preaches preventative maintenance to her contractors, and it’s
a lesson that has paid off.
By Marg Turner
Once a teacher, always a teacher, or so the saying goes.
That may explain why Susan Duquette is committed
to keeping her logging contractors educated. Duquette
left the classrooms of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and traded her
chalk for computer spreadsheets about 18 years ago.
As owner of Ranger Logging, Duquette attends a yearly
operations meeting with other North Shore Forest Inc licensees,
and now she brings along her contractors. “The industry is more
complicated now and complex things can lower morale. I try to
keep them educated as to why we make the decisions we do,”
she says. “Seeing the big picture helps them watch their own
Duquette inherited the Crown licence from her father, Vic
Hamilton. When he decided to retire, Hamilton had to follow
due process; he could offer his Crown licence to someone within
the family, then to the existing licensees with North Shore Forest
and only then to the open market.
Hamilton started Ranger Logging in 1963 when he acquired
a Crown licence for Nouvel Township near Thessalon, east
of Sault Ste Marie. He later purchased two more licences,
increasing Ranger’s harvest share and opening up more options
for timber. Ranger Logging originally cut only hardwood, but has
had to diversify.
Hamilton had three children. Two died at a young age. The
third, Susan Duquette, did not want to see her father’s years of
hard work and dedication to logging in Northern Ontario come
to an end. So she left teaching, and after raising her family,
decided to take over the family business.
Susan Duquette and long-time friend and mentor Lorne
Nicholson discuss cut plans for Ranger Logging.
Along with Ranger’s licences, Duquette inherited some
logging contractors. Presently she contracts Gordon Berry
Logging Ltd and Ralph L Logging Ltd on a full-time basis,
and Keith Brock Logging Ltd part-time. These contractors are
responsible for their own men, equipment, and hauling and
according to Duquette they are very competent operators who
efficiently harvest a lot of wood.
Berry has worked for Ranger Logging for more than 20 years.
He started when he was 14 years old, working for his father, Roy
Berry, who worked for Duquette’s father. Berry employs one
man, and an independent trucker, Larry McMillan, that hauls for
him. He has a fleet of John Deere equipment—two skidders and
He also brings a Ford 800 tandem dump truck, a Deere 490E
excavator and a 710 Champion grader to the mix. Berry’s 648
skidder is a 1986 model, but, this vintage machine remains as
faithful as an old dog.
“I have over 30,000 hours on it, and
I’ve had no problems,” says Berry. He
enjoys the familiarity and the comfort of
the machine. “It’s just a nice machine to
operate,” he says.
Duquette leaves the purchase of
equipment up to the contractors, but
preaches preventative maintenance. “They are basically weekend mechanics
and practise what I preach,” she says. “They maintain the equipment in the
bush, or take parts out to work on them.
Each contractor has his own philosophy
for choosing his equipment. It usually
comes from years of experience in using a
particular brand, which translates into less
downtime and reduced expenses.”
Duquette goes to the bush perhaps
three or four times a season to talk oneon-
one with the men. “I keep a low
profile as forestry is not my background,”
says Susan. “I try to implement work
plans in a creative way with my woods
manager, Terry Montani.”
Duquette spends most of her
time finding markets for her logs and
negotiating contracts. She also does
all the office administration, including
payroll. She pays the contractors and they
pay their men. She relies on Montani to
ensure the men in the bush are doing
their job right. He does the hiring and
firing, determines boundary layouts and
deals with land and lease issues with the
Ministry of Natural Resources, North
Shore Forest Inc, private landowners and
the public, among other duties.
Contractors Gordon Berry (left) Ralph
Maetzold (right) and woods manager
Terry Montani (centre) with a Deere
640D skidder. Montani echoes Susan
Duquette’s sentiments about maximizing
uptime with well maintained equipment.
Montani echoes Duquette’s
sentiments about maximizing uptime
with well maintained equipment. In fact
he says he doesn’t remember Berry’s
last downtime. He credits the seasoned
logger’s gentle approach to the cut and
his care and respect for his machinery.
Montani says the John Deere skidders
work well in single tree selection in
tolerant hardwood stands. The limited slip
front drive allows these cable skidders to
maneuver in confined areas with minimal
tree damage. “These skidders maneuver
well which suits the small cut blocks,” he
Ranger’s second contractor, Ralph L
Logging Ltd, is owned by Ralph Paetzold.
He owns two Tree Farmer C7 skidders, a
Hood slasher and a D600 Champion road
grader, and employs three men. Gene
Blouin and Dennis Gareau are cut and skid operators. His slasher operator Jason Grexton is a versatile
jack of all trades, an important plus for such a small operation.
He not only runs the slasher, but acts as welder, mechanic and
occasional grader operator. The hauling is done by LA Trucking.
The benefit of hiring contractors for Ranger Logging is low
overhead. Duquette’s contractors own their forestry equipment.
They basically run their own business and are in control. “If
you own the equipment you look after it better,” explains
Susan. That’s how her father originally set up the business and it
remains a win-win situation. “These guys just want to be in the
bush logging and not have the hassle of running the business and
dealing with government administration. They just want to log
and deliver.” This leaves Duquette to run the business side of
Duquette knows these long standing contractors make her
business what it is. “We are very fortunate that we don’t have a
high turnover,” she says. “Good loggers are hard to find. Young
people are not interested in that part of the industry, and it is a
One of the major investments for both loggers has been the
Champion road graders, a D600 and a 710. These purchases
were solid investments for both Paetzold and Berry, and are
paying off with longevity.
Owning a road grader allows the contractors to do some
snow plowing during the winter months, when things may be a
bit slower. The contractors also have to build their own logging
roads and bridges under very strict regulations and sometimes
have to know two years in advance where they are building to
submit the blueprints to the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Ranger’s cutting allocations are managed by North Shore
Forest Inc, and their wood is directed to specified mills. Ranger
cuts pulp for Domtar Inc in Espanola and St Mary’s Paper in
Sault Ste Marie and, just recently, Weyerhauser-Wawa. The
logs go to Midway Lumber Mills, Thessalon, Columbia Forest
Products in Hearst and Domtar Inc in Nairn Centre. “We pay a
fee for every tree we cut, so I tell the contractors to maximize
the volume of their cut. For example, don’t send a tree full of rot
over the weigh scales.”
Ralph L Logging’s Hood slasher (above) carrying out work
for Ranger Logging in Northern Ontario. In addition to the
slasher, contractor Ralph Paetzold also has two Tree Farmer
C7 skidders and a D600 Champion grader.
It is a delicate balancing act for all parties involved. Last year
the contractors lost 19 working days because of a severe forest
fire situation that resulted in a total shutdown. On top of that,
they have to remain cognizant of load regulations, environmental
concerns, road building and signage rules, workers compensation
requirements and escalating operating costs. Insurance is a big
obstacle for the loggers and truckers and the high cost of fuel is a
major concern. “Mills have been subsidizing us for fuel, but they
are slowly relinquishing that subsidy as they fight for their own
existence,” laments Duquette.
She emphasizes that they used to be able to negotiate prices
for their logs, but this has been less the case in the past few
years. She understands that the mills are struggling, too, and if
there aren’t any mills, no one will have work.
Duquette says they try to be supportive if a mill is losing
money. She is hopeful her contractors will support her situation
in turn. And she remains optimistic that there may be a
turnaround or compensation down the road, and is not yet ready
to give up.
Even after all these years, Duquette squirms slightly when
asked about being a woman in a very male-dominated industry. “I feel more comfortable about being here now and not as
conspicuous at the operational meetings as I used to be,” she
Her father was more hands on. He did the business
administration and the woods management for many years. But
he consistently hired experienced woods managers throughout
the company’s history, a practice Duquette follows today.
Two former colleagues of her father are her mentors today
and act as directors for the company. Lorne Nicholson retired
from St Mary’s Paper in 1992 and upon retirement took a
keen interest in the operations of Ranger Logging. Lorne and
Vic Hamilton shared a fondness for fishing and hunting in the
Ranger Lake area, which prompted Vic to select the name for
his company. Duquette relies on Nicholson for his historical
knowledge, his friendship and his advice. Andy Waluk became
woods manager for Ranger Logging after his retirement from St
Mary’s Paper (known then as Abitibi). He spent many long days
walking the bush and looking for new areas to harvest and was a
definite asset to the company.
Duquette also relies on her current woods manager and
speaks highly of his abilities. The feeling is reciprocated. “Susan
is a great boss and I respect her a lot,” says Terry Montani. “She’s
let me have free reign.”
But that “free reign” trickles back down to the heart of the
operation—the contractors. Montani appreciates the experience
of the men and always seeks their opinions. Duquette says you
should always buy good equipment and maintain it. But the one
thing her father taught her is that a piece of equipment is only as
good as the operator.