Scanning the Horizons for a Logger

Steve Bowers, OSU Extension Douglas County

If you’ve taken one of Forestry Extension’s Managing Your Timber Sale workshops, it’s possible you were exposed to a section on finding and selecting a logger. Under normal circumstances, finding one isn’t nearly as difficult as the selection process. Much like shopping for an insurance agent or a car salesman: there’s plenty out there, but finding a good one is another matter. And thus is the case for loggers….usually.

But for those of you who keep track of log values and trends, and here let us say you should constantly monitor the market even if you have no intentions of logging, because if you did, then it’s entirely possible you’ve decided making a few stumps might have an appreciable financial return about now. Just after the first of the year, values began to increase, really took-off in February, held their own in March, and April still looking pretty good, then after that it’s anyone’s call.

Trouble is, that those of you who have already decided to do some logging have largely absorbed the supply of logging contractors. If you do your own logging, then it’s merely a matter of sharpening the saw, firing up the dozer, and away we go.  But such is not the case for those of us relying on someone else getting our logs to market. Well, we’ve spent half of this article telling you what you did wrong. Maybe take the remaining portion and see if we can throw some light on the subject.

OK. If I was looking for a logger, the first thing I’d do is find a trucker. You might ask, isn’t this putting the cart ahead of the horse? Absolutely not. If you equate the cart to the logger and the horse to the truck, the mechanism of moving something precedes making it. Start asking around and even if they are busy, ask them what logger they’re assisting (if you’re planning on harvesting less than 10 loads of logs, it’s likely you’ll need a self-loader. A larger operation likely comes with a contractor that performs all facets of logging, i.e. cutting, yarding and trucking).

At the same time, talk to your neighbor. If they’re currently logging, who’s doing the work?  And if they did in the past, who was it? And while you’re driving over to the neighbors, look around and see if there are any loggers working in the vicinity. And if so, stop and see if they’re looking for any future work? There’s a chance that even if they are committed to another job, if yours is in closer proximity to the current one, they just might squeeze you in before moving out of the area.

OK, so if you’re are going to do some logging, you need a buyer. And all log buyers have contractors who do a majority of their work for those buyer’s respective mills. A positive to this strategy is a mill isn’t going to keep a cull around doing their work. The downside is the logger’s allegiance tends to lay with the mill, not necessarily you, so the word of the day is watch those log lengths and diameters as your trees are being felled and bucked.

Still striking out? We all have to fill out a Notification of Operations to sell our wood. Many of the local ODF offices will keep a list of loggers and even if they don’t, the Stewardship foresters know many of the operators in the area merely because they are the enforcement arm of the State. They will have insight as to whether a logger is worth his salt as they see them in daily operations, and the forester typically doesn’t have a dog-in-the-fight, so their assessment will be an objective one.

On our last legs? The Association of Oregon Loggers (AOL) headquarters is in Salem and they can be contacted for a list of loggers associated with the organization. These companies will be accredited with the Pro Loggers Program, and if you’re selling logs, you’ll need a written management plan or an accredited Pro Logger do your work in order to procure a contract with most buyers in the region. It’s not a pre-requisite to have a contractor affiliated with the AOL, but it’s not a bad idea.

Strong log values correlate to busy mills, buried truckers and booked logging contractors. This is where we tell you to plan ahead to avoid the pitfalls of scurrying around at the last minute looking for operators and truckers. If you’d have known several months ago values would have been this good, then everything would be all lined-up, ready to go. But you didn’t know. Nobody knew. So let’s deal with it and hopefully, you’ll get something out of this article. Best of luck.

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