Logger of the Year
foreman Jeff Connolly can run all the equipment but specializes in
the forwarder. He represented the U.S. in the international
forwarder operators' competition in Sweden early this summer.
contractors know the incredible shrinking picture well. Shrinking
timber availability, shrinking profit margins, shrinking numbers
of loggers and mills doing business, even shrinking timber
diameters. The only thing not shrinking is the equipment payment.
But a bigger equipment investment pays off for Priest River, Idaho
logger Mike Reynolds, especially when he mixes it with small
diameter logs. While Reynolds isn't exactly hauling show loads out
of the woods, his cut-to-length equipment helps him maximize
profits for landowners, while at the same time decreasing fuel
loads in dense stands. The cut-to-length combo reduces the amount
of soil compaction and erosion, yet beefs up profits by salvaging
small diameter trees for lumber instead of pulp.
860 forwarder picks up processed logs.
Attention to details
is what helped Reynolds net Logger of the Year 2000 honors from
the Idaho Tree Farm Association. "I like to be
innovative," says the 49- year-old Reynolds who began logging
with his dad 30 years ago. "I'm just trying to survive at
this game and trying to improve the industry's image whenever I
can. Federal lands are locked up and the days of endless forests
are gone. My idea is to not get behind in the curve. I'd just as
soon stay ahead of the game." Reynolds' humble beginnings - a
chainsaw, a cat, and a pickup - evolved into experiments with
feller-bunchers and stroke delimbers in the early 90's. By 1995,
equipment demos and a flexible leasing program enabled him to
"try before you buy." He committed to cut-to-length in
1996 and has never been sorry. "Scandinavian equipment gives
us the ability to do a really nice job.
cut-to-length system keeps him profitable while improving the
industry's environmental image.
It allows us to
handle each tree individually and get the best deal for the
landowner. Now we're able to capture markets not previously
available, going down to four-inch tops - the hew wood we call it.
With these machines, we are sorting on the landing and sending
different species to different mills. The computer lets us load
129 different combinations, break down into three species, and
select saw grade, pulp or low grade. That maximizes dollars
returned per acre. Hew logs bring twice that of pulp for log
value, and the landowner picks up money he never got in the past.
At the end of each day, the computer gives us a tally by species,
average dbh and production numbers. That gives us a good idea -
within reason - on our prices."
The heart of
Reynolds Logging's operation is a Valmet system. He runs two
Valmet 911 harvesters with Valmet 965 and 960 single-grip
processing heads, backed up by two Valmet 860 forwarders and a
Valmet 892 forwarder. A Timbco T430 with Southfork boom and Valmet
965 processing head, and a Valmet 500T with a Valmet 960
processing head, round out the cut-to-length stable. Reynolds'
operators have nothing but praise for the machines. "The 911
is versatile and easy to use," says Reynolds' brother Jeff,
who has operated the Valmet machines all along. "You can see
out of it from all sides and it's quiet. I'd been on the 901, and
this one is more stable. It can cover a lot more difficult terrain
and go up steep slopes.
Hitachi 150 excavator is Reynolds' hands-down favorite for
cleanup chores and reliability. He say it's like the
tried and true Timex watch - It just keeps running and
The maintenance is
pretty easy and we try to keep up on it, because in our situation,
we're the ones who fix it if it's not maintained. We like to catch
things before they come apart." Jeff Connolly, Reynolds'
foreman, collects a few hours here and there on the 911, but
spends most of his time piloting the forwarder. (By the way, he
represented the U.S. in the international forwarder operators'
competition in Sweden earlier this summer.) Having logged most of
his life, he's lived through the changes toward mechanization and
says cut-to-length "has all the benefits of logging without
all the labor. You can be outside without being so physical. It's
a good way to go from the operator's standpoint."
Connolly finds so
many good points about the Valmet cab design that he could run a
company commercial. As a logger that finds himself in the saddle
all day, he's especially fussy about comfort and the lack of fanny
fatigue. "These machines are operator friendly. They have
comfortable chairs, low noise levels and controls built for
comfort, plus the visibility is good. The guys that build these
machines run them for a lot of years, so they know what it takes
to be comfortable in the seat. The forwarder has good handling
capabilities on slopes and it's really stable. I'd trust them
before I'd trust a skidder, and I know skidders."
Reynolds and his brother Brian, the Timbcos outfitted with Valmet
booms and heads are straightforward machines. Brian, who's
operated the 430 for four years, likes the power and handling in
the woods. The ability to maneuver in tight spots is critical in
thinning dense stands, making cut-to-length the only practical way
to go. Reynolds backs up his cut-to-length with a Hitachi 150
excavator, which handles cleanup chores well. "I've owned
other excavators, but I like the Hitachis best. They're like an
old Timex watch.
They just run and
run, and they're cheap to operate, with very little down time. If
the Japanese ever built a harvester, they might give other
companies a run for their money." Talk about running for his
money - that's what Reynolds seems to do best. He's the "go-fer
guy" and sometimes a little wistful that he's not in the cab
of one of his machines, but that's business. With some state sales
and occasional federal timber available, Reynolds depends mostly
on private landowners for his work. The Logger of the Year honors
were all about his success with small woodlot owners and the
generous free advertising that goes with a job well done.
Valmet 965 Harvester with Maxi Control System
Yet the pressure of
the ringing cell phone in the cab, the constant exchanges with
mills and customers, and the headaches of occasional breakdowns,
make business a tough game some days. "I went away from what
I really enjoy," he says of his infrequent time actually
logging. "I can operate all the machines, so I know this
business from the ground up, and I know if equipment breaks down
or production is down. But I can't pay anyone else to do what I
do." Working with neighbors who want a few acres cut, or
getting acquainted with newcomers to the area, Reynolds respects
the landowners' requests and counts on doing the extras to snag
repeat business. He hasn't been wrong so far. One of his choosiest
customers is a local environmental activist trying to manage lands
for wildlife, species restoration and visuals, as well as for
monetary return. Turning traditional pulp logs into saw logs
doesn't hurt the guy's feelings one bit, and Reynolds enjoys
seeing landowners get paid for what used to be free. He also likes
to use contracting jobs to better educate those not as familiar
with the woods.
Toting around a few
"tree cookies," he performs a little show and tell,
pointing out that some 80-yearold trees just aren't going to grow
any more and should be cut. ("Keeping these trees in and
expecting them to grow more is a little like telling Grandpa at 90
that he's got to get with the program," he quips.) One big
challenge ahead for Reynolds is how to get rid of the cleanup mess
without burning, which he suspects will be illegal in a few more
years. He's hatching a plan to try something new, but won't get
too specific until he sees if it works or not. With wife Cathy
handling the books at home and a great crew in the woods, Reynolds
focuses a lot on the landowner, and making connections with the
mill to get the best value for his efforts.
A big bonus is the
reliable service he gets from his dealer - Totem Equipment in Spokane
- which keeps machines up and running when his own crews can't
handle repairs. The god working relationship with Totem put
both him and Connolly on the guest list to the early summer
equipment demo in Sweden. It's Reynolds' second trip, but he
already knows he doesn't need further convincing on cut-to-length
equipment. "I can't see myself retiring at 65 still
using a chainsaw," he says. "I wanted to stay in
this area and I thought this was the equipment to help me do
has covered forestry issues and the timber industry for magazines
and newspapers for over 15 years.
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