July August 2005
 

 

 

 

Reaching for the Moon

Moon Light Timber prides itself on skilled operators who can handle specialized logging conditions

Bob Bottorff by the 24-inch Quadco hotsaw head.

By Kurt Glaeseman

When asked about his 2004 Operator of the Year Award for Eastern Oregon, Bob Bottorff of Moon Light Timber in Klamath Falls downplays his own role. “It was a joint operation with the State of Oregon, with U. S. Timberland, and especially with my crew. You’re only as good as the guys down there in the trenches, the guys doing the work. I’m lucky. I’ve got a crew who takes pride in their work. It’s my crew that made this happen.”

Bottorff uses a Pierce delimber on a Link-Belt 400 to do sensitive work.

A Light Touch
Bottorff received the award for completing a harvest operation east of Chiloquin that called for the protection of a significant wetland in a riparian management area (RMA). Although his crew was certainly commendable, Bottorff’s judicious guidance was always evident. Because forested wetland soil is vulnerable to severe impacts such as rutting and compaction, Bottorff chose to do the work when the ground was frozen and protected by snow, thus limiting the disturbance to the soil and to the understory vegetation. The Oregon Board of Forestry praised Bottorff for his “light touch” harvesting, wherein the crew used a boommounted saw to access each tree from a distance. Downed wood and snags were retained within the wetland and RMA to provide for fish and wildlife habitat. According to Bottorff, wise decisions on the part of his crew for the location of skid trails and landings and for the selection of target trees made the project a success. Today there are very few scarred trees and very little evidence that machine activity has recently occurred. The final evaluation showed that Moon Light Timber had easily exceeded the minimum Forest Practices Act requirements.

A Timbco 445B with a 24" Quadco hotsaw.  Bortoff chooses to work on ground frozen and protected by snow.

Starting Out
Bottorff is no stranger to specialized logging conditions. He grew up in Cottage Grove, Ore., where his father logged and later worked in a sawmill. Bob worked through various jobs in the Oregon woods before a 15-year stint with Heath Logging. This company sent him to Utah for nine months in a Doug fir harvest and then to Great Falls, Mont. for 18 months in Lewis and Clark country on a Doug fir, lodgepole and ponderosa pine operation. After the harsh winters, he was glad to come home to Oregon, where he started his own enterprise in Klamath Falls. Moon Light Timber, LLC has six employees plus Bob and his wife Susie. Susie also grew up in Cottage Grove, and Bob still claims that their wedding in 1973 was the smartest thing he ever did. “Susie is a fulltime partner,” says Bob. “She spends a lot of time on the hill with me, and she has always understood long hours.” In fact, those before dawn and after dusk hours gave them the idea for their company name, since Susie would often be out in the field, spending moonlight time working with Bob. Now Susie is kept more than busy with payroll and data entry into the computer system.

Dave Degenhardt (Oregon Board of Forestry) presents Bob Bottorff with the Eastern Oregon Operator of the Year (2004) Award at the Oregon Logging Conference in Eugene.

Silver Lake Project
A recent project found Bottorff working on a U.S. Timberland overstory removal job near Silver Lake, Ore. The former Weyerhaeuser plantations had been left as wildlife areas ten to fifteen years ago, when the surroundings were logged. But now wildlife has moved back to the healthy regrowth areas, so the mature white fir, lodgepole and ponderosa pine logs are deployed to mills in Lakeview, Gilchrist, Dillard and Medford. R & B Trucking (for Rick and Bob Bottorff) takes out most of the logs. This trucking is a relatively new business venture, but Bottorff is confident it will work — he has known the trucks and drivers from the days before he owned the logging company. Bottorff’s logging strategy has the crew fairly well spread out. A span of two to three days each separates the sawing, the skidder, the delimber and the shovel. In the summer, this spreadout placement requires more fire watches, but it does cut down on interaction accidents, a critical factor for the lower mechanical logging insurance rates. On this project, Bottorff and U.S. Timberlands’ Contract Harvest Manager Mike Garrett have decided to leave as many residual trees as possible. Bob numbers the roads and has walkthrough discussions with the saw operator and the skidding crew so everyone understands the cutting prescription. “The better organized you are,” claims Bottorff, “the better things flow.”

Jim Balderas operates the D5H CAT.

Experienced Team
Brad Hunter runs the tracked Pierce Link-Belt 400 processor, and according to him, it “eats alive” the Doug and white fir. He has an occasional problem with the bigger pine limbs, in which case he may have to double-process, but he likes the machine. He especially likes delimbing in the winter, when the trees are frozen and “pop” cleanly. (The pines get rubbery and a little more resistant when the sap runs.) Hunter believes that it is vital to keep up on the maintenance, as machinery like this can shake itself apart. He spends an hour a day cleaning, greasing and doing preventive work. “He’s on top of everything,” says Bottorff. Danny Woods operates the Timbco 445 with a 24-inch Quadco hotsaw. Bottorff claims he was one of the key reasons Moon Light got the 2004 Award: “He simply doesn’t scar up any trees.” Woods sometimes has to double-cut a bigger tree, and then he may choose to let it free-fall. For truly oversized trees, Bottorff uses a private sawyer who handfalls before Woods enters the plot.

Brad Hunter operates the tracked Pierce Link-Belt 400 processor.

The fire specialist on the crew is Jim Balderas, who brought with him over a decade of experience from the Forest Service and private companies. In the winter he’s a Cat skinner, but in the summer Balderas arrives a half-hour before start time. He checks every vehicle for good fire extinguishers, starts the water pumps, and keeps the fire truck in the vicinity of the saw. He has a well-defined fire drill procedure, and when Bottorff drops a red flag, Balderas immediately moves the crew through a quick and decisive practice run. Everyone cooperates.  The 690 ELC John Deere shovel is run by Harold Pedder, who sorts and decks logs according to directions from Bottorff and U.S. Timberlands. Bottorff is fond of this shovel, as it was one of the original machines he worked with in Utah. Right hand man Rick Spriggs sometimes works on the John Deere 200 shovel, but he is more or less known as Mr. Proficient: “He can hop on any machine I own,” says Bottorff, “and I don’t have to worry.” Both Spriggs and Bottorff like the two-year-old John Deere 200, a quiet machine with a comfortable air-conditioned cab.

690 John Deere shovel sorts on the frozen site.

At this site Spriggs works in tandem with Marcus Manning on a 525B Cat. The crew’s good-natured jokester, Manning gets high praise for his daily work and specifically for his discretion and common sense at the RMA Award site. “The 525B is a heavy machine that will ‘find’ soft spots in a wetland area,” says Bottorff, “but Marcus knows how to tack corners, avoid scarring trees, and keep the Cat moving.” “This company’s biggest asset is the people sitting in the seats of these machines. I’m obsessive about my crew,” claims Bottorff. “It’s my job to keep good iron under them and to take care of them as well as I can.” What’s the bottom line for Bottorff? “I like the challenge — looking at a hillside and knowing I can make it work. It’s in the blood. I’m always aware of nice trees. Nice trees. When loggers die, they go to the Big Timber. But right now it’s a pleasure to say that I like going to work every day. A lot of people can’t say that.”

Bottorff’s righthand man Rick Spriggs with 200 John Deere shovel.

Marcus Manning operates the 525B CAT skidder.

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, October 18, 2005