Commitment to excellence and
hand’s on management
are cornerstones of the
Brownson Logging Company
By Kurt Glaeseman
The office wall at Brownson Logging Company in
Myrtle Creek, Oregon, speaks for itself: letters of commendation,
awards, trophies and plaques. Brothers
Mike and Gary Brownson are reminded daily that dedication
and commitment to excellence in logging do not go
unnoticed. When the Oregon Department of Forestry designated
Brownson Logging Company as 2004 Southwest
Oregon Operator of the Year, Mike was quick to redirect the
spotlight to their hardworking crew and to the professional
guidance they had from Roseburg Lumber Company.
man doesn’t bring about a successful operation like this,"
Mike asserts. "We were all in this together, and everyone
wanted to do the job right."
This job was a timber harvest on Roseburg land, about
seven miles northwest of Sutherlin. Steep hillsides sloping
toward a small fish-bearing stream complicated the logistics,
which meant 1,500 feet of downhill logging. A swing
yarder with a mechanical slack-pulling carriage was used to
gain lift through the Riparian Management Area and to
direct logs through the limited number of yarding corridors
in the riparian buffer strip. The steady but slow pace of the
operation decreased daily production but ensured protection
for the live trees left in the RMA.
Mike Brownson stands on ridge overlooking
Management Area near Sutherlin, Oregon
Most of this work was done in August, under a waiver to
operate during an Industrial Fire Precaution Level III period,
so a 4,000-gallon pumper with 2,000 feet of hose was installed
at the top of the ridge. Fire rules and safety standards were
strictly enforced. After the timber harvest, the Brownson and
Roseburg crews mulched road and landing areas with straw
to minimize sediment runoff. When the crews moved out,
the area was cleanly harvested, and significantly more than
the minimum required trees were left along the stream.
Carefully executed operations like this have established
an enviable reputation for Brownson Logging. Although the
brothers were raised on a dairy, they have always been part
of a logging tradition. Their grandfather told stories of
working with a steam donkey, and when his son Howard
bought a logging truck and started cutting in 1972, grandsons
Mike and Gary were quick to get on board. Mike
brought with him several seasons of Alaskan experience
running a shearer mounted on a D-6. Gary had gone to the
woods with a neighboring Myrtle Creek company and was
ready to contribute his know-how to the family venture.
Father Howard is officially retired now, but still runs parts
for the Brownsons. Gary and Mike have never had time to
Gary Brownson seated in office in Myrtle Creek.
Staying Small and Effective
Both insist that one element of success for them is their
decision to remain small. That means that one of the brothers
is always present at a side — planning strategies, solving
problems, helping the crew. "We’re both hands-on guys,"
says Mike, "and that works well with our crews." Although
each brother theoretically has his own side, they are both
comfortable exchanging lead roles. Each knows all the
employees, all the machinery, and all the harvest plans.
"We’re fortunate that Gary and I get along so well," says
Mike. "If he needs help moving, I help him. We do whatever
we’ve got to do. There’s no time for whining. We’re always
on the same page."
Covering All Sides
Currently Gary’s side is working on D. R. Johnson land
near Gardiner and Reedsport. The job could well span several
years — a good set of 60-year-old Doug fir and spruce,
trucked to D. R. Johnson mills in Roseburg and Round
Prairie. "We’re working with lots of buffer strips," explains
Gary, "on pretty good ground but with quite a few wetlands.
It seems we’re always right up against a buffer, a railroad,
or Highway 101."
The "little" yarder: 6255 Thunderbird
Tools of the trade for Gary are a 6255 Madill (formerly
Thunderbird) swing yarder, a 1242 Thunderbird shovel, and
a 1236 Madill processor — a good combination of machinery
for the eight employees. The first logs are loaded at five
a.m., so Gary starts the two-hour trip to the coast at three —
"The cool hours, you know, when the traffic is light!"
Mike’s Tyee Mountain side is another long-term specialty
job, contracted through Roseburg Lumber. Located just
west of Sutherlin, the tract is big timber, predominantly fir,
with a minimum-damage-to-existing-trees restriction. Mike
uses a 110-foot "Skadill" tower — a T110 skyline Skadgett
tower mated with an 046 Madill. The 1 3/8-inch lines hang
out about 3,000 feet above the owner’s tree farm. The
Boman carriage is a Mark V Super Car, a dependable
machine for big wood.
The Boman Mark V Super Car carriage does a nice job with big wood.
Sometimes the big yarder is idle for months at a time, but
when it is needed, it’s available. A second (smaller) yarder, a
6255 Thunderbird, is a versatile way to do mop-up and the
corners, without having to spend the time and expense to move the big tower.
Another set of eight employees covers the Tyee side. In addition, all mechanical and maintenance work is done by Brad Osborne, who works when and where he is needed. Both sides have a Brownson-owned Kenworth log truck. Current turnaround time from the Tyee side to Roseburg is a little over three hours. The time is longer, of course, from Gary’s side on the coast.
Mike, an avid elk hunter, jokes about a little tradition that has developed with his crew. They are almost all bow hunters, and the last week of September they literally close down the side for their hunting trip to Eastern Oregon. "They’ve earned that week off," laughs Mike. "I know how much I look forward
to my own trips to New Mexico.
In fact, I’d hate to have to work with my crew if I said no!"
"We pretty much work year-round," says Mike. "We have very few down days, and those usually come from a slowdown
at the mill. Our crews never have to whine about having
to take a day off."
The Brownsons have done a lot of work with Roseburg Lumber, and the relationship has been a good one. "I respect and admire their timber management and their aggressive tree-planting program," says Mike. "And they’ve been mighty good to us. Once Gary and I were the new kids on the block. Roseburg let us work in with the Big Boys, the tough competition. We’ve contracted with them for 30 years now. You couldn’t ask for better people to work with."
"Staying small and tight has worked well for Brownson Logging," Mike reflects. "There’s still a good future in logging.
There may be fewer guys doing it but better money for those willing to stick it out, do the labor, and perform to high standards."
That wall of plaques and trophies and awards would seem to indicate that the Brownsons are certainly on the right track.
service is temporarily unavailable