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Partners in C-T-L Cut Special Niche in California

CTL Forest Management - Two pioneers in mechanized harvesting share their insight into what it takes to make cut-to-length logging work. n working with mechanized harvesting in 1982 at the beginning of the American movement towards mechanical logging.

By Staff Writer
Date Posted: 11/1/1999

PLACERVILLE, Calif. — Few loggers have more experience with cut- to-length technology than Jeff Holland and his partner, Kirk Furlong Wentworth, owners of CTL Forest Management. Jeff began working with mechanized harvesting in 1982 at the beginning of the American movement towards mechanical logging.

His first work was on machines that utilized shears for severing stems. He then moved on to harvesting combined with a stroke boom delimber and then, as he does today, into full cut-to-length using a Rottne harvester teamed with Rottne forwarders.

Today, as a result of their willingness to investigate and move into modern harvesting technologies, Jeff and his partner are in constant demand. Their specialty is harvesting U.S. Forest Service and private lands considered too sensitive for more conventional harvesting methods. In the process, the two men are reshaping public opinion regarding the value of harvesting. Jeff proudly points to the fact that CTL Forest Management even counts environmentalists among its clients as evidence of the care and concern he puts on the table when doing a harvest.

CTL Forest Management’s base is in the heart of the northern California forest, a few miles east of Sacramento. The area once swarmed with ’49ers seeking gold. Now it is covered with a thick carpet of green gold in the form of the El Dorado National Forest and millions of acres of privately held timberland. The firm uses cut-to-length technology to provide fiber while bringing the forests back to the fire resistant character they had in pre-settlement days.

Jeff is in the cut-to-length end of the business for a specific reason. "The woods mean a lot to me," he said recently in a conversation with TimberLine. "We do more than just harvest; we actually improve the woods. I think cut-to-length is a good thing for the woods. It’s easy on the land, it provides the ultimate in utilization of the wood, and it is an important tool in restoring the health of the forest."

Jeff’s mind set has created a growing clientele for his business. Both environmentally conscientious forest products companies like Sierra Pacific and smaller land owners concerned with the quality of their land utilize his services.

"And I see that expanding even more," he said, commenting on the future of cut-to-length. "As more and more people see what can be done, cut-to-length is becoming — for the applications for which it is suitable — the preferred method of harvesting. People are beginning to demand it."

Cut-to-length methods has not always been accepted, Jeff pointed out. "Three or four years ago, c-t-l was not even thought of around here," Jeff said. "It wasn’t met with great enthusiasm by the timber industry, and the foresters didn’t know much about it."

The change has come, Jeff said, as foresters have gone in behind him and seen what can be done to the forest with cut-to-length technology. Cut-to-length is different than any other kind of logging, and it takes a while for people to get used to it.

"On a thinning job, the companies I work for are able to document that we get 15 percent or more out of the same land than other kinds of operations do," said Jeff.

CTL Forest Management’s increased production results from the fact that they harvest trees others may pass by due to size, location or cost of removal. In their area, conventional logging takes trees down to an 8-inch top. Jeff said his company is taking them down to 5 inches or less. Because CTL Forest Management treats the whole acre of ground instead of just pockets, they can reach out and take an 8-inch tree that someone else might leave behind.

Even more important than the production off an acre of ground is the ability of cut-to-length to conserve forest resources by minimizing disturbance of the forest floor. According to Jeff, his company has a very minimal impact on the land. Logs are never dragged across the ground, and all the processing is done off the ground so nothing is torn up in the woods. After thinning a stand, people can go out and see the difference.

As a result, the Forest Service is beginning to require cut-to-length logging in sensitive areas, and people who might otherwise resist logging are seeing the health improvement of the forest and its ability to withstand fire. Cut-to-length technology is actually helping to change the minds of some skeptics.

A stand Jeff is particularly proud of working on is a large tract owned by preservationists who, in the past, have been quite active in expressing anti-logging sentiment. "This is a forest that has never been touched," he said. "After 100 years of fire suppression, smaller trees have grown up so thick that you can’t see the old growth anymore. We have gone in and taken out the trees that fire would have taken out naturally. When you’re done, it looks like a park, very much like the original forest." The improved health to the forest that cut-to-length logging accomplishes amazes many landowners. Stands can be improved by proper thinning techniques without damaging the trees left behind. The preservationists realized the benefits of cut-to-length logging, and the experience changed their mind about the forest products industry.

Because stand thinning and restoration require a good deal of diversity, Jeff and his partner cut and process stems with a Rottne EGS 600 harvester. While several harvester heads are available for the EGS, the 600 was chosen because it allows for stems of up to 25 inches or so to be efficiently taken down and processed. The Rottne also provides the long reach that can be so important in a thinning and salvage harvesting operation.

The limbed and bucked logs produced by the harvester are taken from the woods with Rottne’s SMV forwarder, which is equipped with an RK 90 knuckleboom loader. The forwarder also adds a great deal of flexibility to the company’s operations.

The ability of the forwarder to move to the logs, pick them up without disturbing the ground, and deliver them to waiting transportation is, to Jeff, the most important factor in a cut-to-length operation. Jeff said that the biggest thing people overlook is the forwarder. Anytime you get people out looking at these machines, most of the attention goes to the harvester. But the real difference between cut-to-length and other technologies is how the wood is transported from the stump to the truck without compacting or rutting the soil. According to Jeff, the forwarder is the piece of equipment that makes the difference between a conventional mechanized job and a cut-to-length job.

"Our Rottne has the ability to move through the forest with very little ground disturbance and then reach out and pick up the wood left behind by the harvester, " said Jeff. "You could do some form of cut-to-length without the harvester, but you couldn’t do it without the forwarder."

The Rottne harvester and forwarder CTL Forest Management runs allows Jeff and Kirk to win jobs they wouldn’t be able to get without the specialized abilities of the machinery. Allen Somers, a timber sale administrator for the Forest Service in the El Dorado National Forest, explained that the cut-to-length system is starting to be required on some jobs because of the

machinery’s ability to get the job done with minimal disruption to the forest floor. "With c-t-l, the main thing we’re looking at is little or no ground disturbance," he told TimberLine.

Allen explained the forest management needs of a portion of the El Dorado that was previously burned by fire and required some harvesting. But because of the need to preserve the delicate forest floor, there was concern about ground disruption. Using cut-to-length logging was required as part of a litigation effort.

"Our main emphasis on the El Dorado was to make the forest more fire-resilient. With the cut-to-length technology available, we were able to accomplish that ask," Allen said.

Allen believes in the future technologies that minimize disruption are destined to become the dominant technologies in the woods, especially on Forest Service lands. Cut-to-length has shown that it is a very important tool that foresters can use in designing cuts that enhance the forest.

While much of the two partners’ work is in the national forest or on lands owned by Sierra Pacific, another rapidly expanding area of opportunity is on the small parcels of private lands. On private lands, CTL Forest Management does the entire job. They generally work with owners who want to condition their forests to be fire-resistant. Jeff said most of the owners they work with are not harvesting for value. Instead, the landowners are harvesting for forest health, especially fire safety. Frequently, the owners lack the expertise to know how to achieve their goal. On those lands, Jeff’s team does the entire job from start to finish. They hire a forester to do the logging plan, cut to the 20-foot to 30-foot spacings found in the original forest in the region, prune the trees to 15 feet, then pull the slash away from the trees, and burn it in place in the woods. Later, the natural grasses come up and carpet the forest floor. The result is a beautiful stand that is better able to withstand fire than most of the surrounding forest.

"I think if we’re going to stay healthy as an industry, people are going to have to accept that we can’t continue to do things the way we once did," said Jeff. "The people who are against the logging practices we do now actually do change their minds when they see what we can do with the Rottne equipment."

Jeff’s commitment to change does not mean that he holds anything against the old ways of doing things. He insists that time has changed. In the 1920s the industry did things with the equipment they had available and the knowledge they had. Through time, the industry has changed. Today, the equipment and logging techniques are more advanced.

"It doesn’t have to all be CTL," said Jeff. "You can do some great things with conventional logging too, but it does have to be a change from the ways we did things in the past. We have to take an interest in our future."

While Jeff speaks of the benefits cut-to-length brings to the forest with passion, it is obvious that his real passion in life is his family. He sees his work in the forests and his work building a healthy family environment as being intertwined. He and his wife, Mary, run a traditional family. They have a son, Kevin, 11, and a daughter, Kelsey, 8. Mary does the books for the business and runs the house. Jeff works the equipment and makes sure to spend time with the children. Kevin plays little league and Jeff coaches the team. The company sponsors little league and girls softball. "We’re active in youth basketball and generally try to be involved with our children wherever we can," said Jeff.

For Jeff and Kirk, cut-to-length is more than just a forest harvesting technology, it is a statement of their commitment to the future. The two men believe that they not only make a living when they go to work each day, but that they are creating a better future for themselves and for their industry. Few in any industry could hope for more out of their life’s work.


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