Wood Business

Features Forestry Management Harvesting
Quick, efficient beetle-kill harvesting

Oct. 29, 2014 – Woodbusiness had the chance to see how the beetle-kill pine is stacking up in Vanderhoof, B.C. last week. This is the region that was first and hardest hit by the mountain pine beetle so it's the area where the forest has been dead the longest. Contractors here have perfected the art of harvesting the dry, brittle pine.

Doug McComb, the harvesting superintendent for L&M Lumber, took us to nearby logging operations run by long-time contractor Gulbranson, to see how the company has adapted its harvesting so that the heavy machines don't damage the brittle dead pine trees as they are harvested and loaded onto trucks. (Watch for the full story in Canadian Forest Industries.)

While on the site, Woodbusiness had a chance to speak with the heavy machine operators that work for Gulbranson. In Northern B.C., there are more jobs than people in the forest industry and skilled workers, especially mechanics, are hard to come by.

One of the machine operators who goes by the name Moose (Andy Carlson), was using a decking machine to gently pick up the logs brought to him by two skidders and pile them next to a stretch where a road was to be built. One of the skidder operators is a young man (Sheldon Patrick) just out of high school. Moose tought him how to operate the machine though a 6-month course called Project Heavy Duty.

Out of high school since 2010, Patrick has been working with Moose for two years driving a skidder back and forth between the line where the feller-buncher is felling trees to Moose's decker. He enjoys working outdoors and looks forward to a logging career – eventually working up to operating a decker like his mentor.

As the dead pine nears the end of its shelf life, the future is uncertain for contractors like Gulbranson working in the heart of the impacted region. But as long as the fibre can be salvaged, the push is on to get as much of it harvested and to the mill as it can handle. Finding and training skilled operators is key to keep the operation on track.