February, 2002

 

 

 

 

It's About More Than Trees

Cross & Crown, Inc. invests in their company, their community and the health of the logging industry

Crown and Cross crew takes lunch break in shade of the Madill 6255 yarder.

By Kurt Glaseman

When Bob and Betsy Luoto of Carlton, Ore., combine their brains and experience and resources into motion, the tremors are felt way beyond the local logging community. The Luotos own and operate Cross and Crown Inc., Operative Forest Consultants & Contractors, headquartered about a dozen miles north of McMinnville. 

The Luoto name is well-known all over Oregon, as well as in Salt Lake City, Orlando, and Washington, D.C. For some it's an upscale logging name; for others it's a driving force behind financial aid for critically ill children. Bob is a third-generation logger who started setting chokers before he went to college. He got his bachelor's degree in Political Science from Washington State University in 1974 but chose to come back and work in the woods with his father Robert. 

In 1980 the Luoto Logging Co. was given the Northwest Oregon Area Operator of the Year honor for work in protecting streams and water systems within a logging unit, which Bob supervised. In 1990 the governor of Oregon appointed him to the State Advisory Board for Occupational Safety and Health. He has been very active in Associated Oregon Loggers (A.O.L.), where he served as President in 1995 and 1996, and on the Board of Directors of the American Logging Council. 

The Eagle IV carriage weighs 2300 pounds and can handle a load of from 10,000 to 20,000 pounds.

He has been closely associated with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and has lobbied in Washington, D.C., to help pass several key forestry bills. To crown his list of accomplishments, this past January, Bob was named Oregon Logger of the Year.  Bob's wife Betsy is also active in A.O.L., where she was named Woman of the Year in 1997. She speaks passionately for Log a Load for Kids, a fund raising organization that operates under the umbrella of the Children's Miracle Network. Until recently, Betsy was their National Chairperson. 

An attractive feature of the Log a Load for Kids program is that funds raised within a state stay in that state; the recipients in Oregon recipients have been Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene, Doernbecher's Hospital in Portland, and Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford. Donors can even specify which hospital gets their money, and they often know specific areas of dire need. When Bob Luoto was president of A.O.L., he recognized the value of supporting an organization like Log a Load for Kids: "So many loggers had kids in hospitals, and the expenses were overwhelming. 

The Pierce delimber on a LinkBelt carrier has been ideal for thinning at the Blodgett Tract

It was coincidentally a great way to boost the image of the Oregon logger . . . at a time when we could use some good publicity." He asked an other logger and his wife to co-chair this program, which would be sponsored by A.O.L. With careful planning and hard work, the venture got off to a good start. The loaded and polished log truck became a symbol of caring, and it appeared in parades, at events and on television. The basic premise is that loggers or logging companies can donate the value of a load of logs, but individuals and mills and corporations were quick to join in. 

Some of the PR events were light-hearted: The Mr. Log-a-Load Contest, a tongue-in-cheek beauty contest for men, judged the contestants on talent, poise, personality and gym wear that raised $35,000. Thirty states and Canada participate in Log a Load for Kids, and Oregon is one of the strongest fundraisers. Bob has always been concerned with the image of loggers and the dilemmas they face. He reflects, "To me, the saddest part is that loggers see daily what has happened to natural resources in the national forests. 

CAT 325B logloader at the Blodgett Tract

The public has no concept of the money being wasted in these national forests. They've been led to believe it's for the environmental good of the country.  I've seen a lot of good friends go broke. Maybe the next generation will figure it out: We can use our natural resources. Many current policies do a real disservice to the people and the resources." That's one reason Bob works willingly for the Sustained Forestry Initiative (SFI). "I've seen a huge shift in our country," say Bob, "as we've gone from a rural to an urban mind set. People in the metropolitan areas become disconnected with the basic forests and land itself." 

He encourages companies to get green certified, showing that they are truly doing what they say as they handle resources. He knows that the public demands such a certification, and big distributors like Home Depot have everything to gain to keep a clean image. One problem is that several different groups want to offer this certification, with varying degrees of toughness in their standards. "We've got to get it ironed out and be consistent. We need to show the public that we do know what we are talking about and that we're responsible. It's a big deal here in Oregon, bigger than in most states, where logging may not be quite as important," adds Bob. 

Bob and Betsy Luoto stand in front of the Cross & Crown Freightliner that carries the token load of logs and the banner for Log a Load for Kids.

Luoto's Cross & Crown tries to model standards that are not only tolerable but admirable in the public eye. The thirty employees are active on three sides and do most of their work in northwest Oregon. The Cross & Crown trucks are a familiar sight, not just the Log a Load for Kids banner truck, but trucks loaded and headed for the mills. A typical side might be the Blodgett 1200 Tract cut near Fishhawk Lake, above Mist - 50 miles northwest of Portland and about 15 miles from the Columbia River. 

This is both a thinning and a clear cut-fir, hemlock, cedar and alder. This "Blodgett 1200" block is part of a research forest owned and administered by Oregon State University (OSU). The land was donated to the University by the Michigan Blodgett family, one of whom had been a timber broker. 

Dennis McMullen (on right, wearing green cap), truck boss for Cross & Crown, drives in parades and keeps the truck polished. Gary Ward or "G. Dub" (on left) is logging supervisor for Cross & Crown.

After the tract was initially logged, a severe fire ravaged the area in the late 1920s. Heavy brush grew in and juvenile growth of marketable trees was suppressed, until Douglas fir and then hemlock overtopped the brush. Now the plan calls for the development of a multi-layered forest of wildlife habitat and tall tree components. OSU sells the logs, but hires a logging contractor to cut them. 

Half the bid item is based on actual cost of cutting, and half on the operational plan OSU requires the contractor to develop. Since no two mills have exactly the same requirements, machinery operators have to stay alert. The preponderance of logs are forty-footers, but the rest of the material must be utilized. Anything with a smaller than 6-inch top must be separated into hard- and softwood for pulp - most of which goes to Pacific Fibre in Longview, Wash. 

Any piece that is two feet or longer and four inches or bigger goes into a box for ultimate debarking. This "Blue Box" is a clean-up adjunct, so that material on the landing, like trimmed ends, can be salvaged. The good logs, loaded onto Cross & Crown Freightliners, go to several destinations: Douglas fir to Willamina or Tillamook; cedar to Klamath Falls; alder to Longview. Luoto demands that his equipment be kept in top-notch condition, since a logging side is often two hours or more of road travel from the shop. 

Wendy Buchheit, General Bookkeeper and Payroll Person at Cross & Crown in Carlton, Oregon

Grant Pretty, siderod and yarder operator at the Blodgett Tract, has been running the Madill 6255 for a year. "It's a real nice machine. I feel lucky to get a new yarder, since people usually keep them a long time. The cab is a real luxury, and the Madill is basically a fast and efficient machine." The green and white Eagle IV carriage is decorated with the Cross & Crown logo - for a good reason: Luoto has had Eagle carriages for 20 years and really likes them. This one weighs 2300 pounds and can handle a payload of 10,000 to 20,000 pounds. 

Mike Adams, process operator, runs a Pierce 3400 delimber on a LinkBelt carrier. Between him and the computer, logs are constantly scanned for optimal value - that's length and girth for fir, hemlock, alder and spruce. "It's usually a pretty smooth ride," says Adams, "but the bigger, gnarlier spruce and hemlock are the hardest on the machine." Brother John Luoto runs the CAT 325B logloader and occasionally a D6 CAT. In the thinning part of the Blodgett Tract, he loads from 7-9 log trucks a day, but hopes it will increase to 12 per day when they get into the clear cut.

 It's an efficient but harmonious crew; that includes Jeremy Zeman, hook tender; Faron Davis, rigging slinger; and chasers Keith Baller and Tim Ruyle. Yet another person is highly visible on this operation. Richard Symons, silviculturist and contract administrator for OSU, is the vital link between the logging contractor and the research team back at the College of Forestry. He points out the pre-marked corridors, defined by "rub" trees that will have to be cut at the end, that guide the direction of the thinning operation. He checks on eight or nine satellite forest tracts administered by the college.  

He is proud that this system takes no money from the State of Oregon; the profits are directed back to a reserve fund for teaching and research at the College of Forestry. When he stumbled on a chunk of metal from an old Pennsylvania-made yarder, he reflected: "This is a remnant from when the area was yarded by steam engines in the 1920s. That was when logging depended on brute strength. 

Today the name of the game is "finesse.'" Bob Luoto likes the analogy. Today's timber industry requires thoughtful planning, open minds, active political involvement, a responsible attitude . . . and more than a little finesse. "Logging is a big part of Oregon, and it reaches way beyond us.   Betsy and I are trying to give something back to an industry that has given us so much." They have certainly done so. The Luoto's Cross & Crown enterprise has made a major impact on the politics of Oregon logging and the public awareness of children's support groups like Log a Load for Kids.

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