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Chad Tollefson Logging Combines High Production With Commitment to Sustainability
A Michigan logger with a sharp focus on production relies on Woodland Equipment, Inc. for equipment that meets his exacting needs.
By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 9/1/2013
L’ANSE, Michigan — Chad Tollefson, the owner of Chad Tollefson Logging, puts an acute focus on productivity. And he does so in the context of sustainable forestry. Chad’s company, which he started in 2008, is certified in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc. (SFI®).
A member of the logging industry for more than 17 years, Chad learned a great deal by working at his father’s logging company before launching his own business just five years ago. Indeed, while still at his father’s business, he made the acquaintance of Ron Beauchamp, the president of Woodland Equipment, Inc. in Iron River, Mich. He soon learned he could rely on the team at Woodland Equipment (WEI) to understand and meet equipment needs.
Since the inception of his company, Chad has bought four processors and one forwarder from WEI. The most recent purchases are a 2011 TimberPro 725 track machine with a Risley Rolly II head and a 2013 TimberPro 725 track machine with a Risley Rolly II head.
“I do mechanical logging, low-impact logging,” said Chad. The approach results in “one-third more wood” than with conventional methods, he explained.
“A long wood crew leaves behind branches,” said Chad. His crews do not. “I process the branches. I get better value out of the trees.” That accounts for the 33 percent gain overall. The outcome means “more value and more production” for his company.
Chad runs with a team of four full-time and three part-time employees. Besides the two TimberPro processers, three Fabtek forwarders are in use. He cuts primarily for Longyear, which is headquartered in Marquette, Mich. Longyear handles all trucking, although Chad does own a lowboy trailer and a Ford tractor with which he moves his own equipment.
Seeing a member of the WEI team at one of his jobsites now and then is something that Chad expects and appreciates. He said that WEI understands his operation and therefore understands his equipment requirements.
“I cut a lot of hard maple – 20-some inch in diameter,” said Chad. “Big pines and hemlocks” are also in the mix. “[The TimberPro with Rolly II] will cut a 27-inch in diameter tree.”
Yet the power of the processors that Chad purchased from WEI is just one reason he chose them. He explained that he was looking for a “high production, low impact on ground” machine. That’s precisely what he got it in the TimberPro 725 with Rolly II head.
Actually, he got much more. “High track power, reach and stability” are all integral parts of the TimberPro, said Chad. So, too, is a comfortable cab, he explained.
Although Chad operates all his equipment, he is most often runs one of the processors. None of his employees touches a chain saw. Infrequently, Chad will use a saw for trimming. When he does, it is a Husqvarna.
WEI mounted the Rolly II head on each of Chad’s TimberPro carriers. The company has deep expertise with the Rolly II head, which is demonstrated in part by the rebuild program that WEI offers for the head. In the rebuild program, WEI takes the Rolly II head to bare frame and reconditions it. WEI also builds its own computer for operating the Rolly II.
Track speed of the TimberPro is a feature that commands great respect from Chad, who even cites the impressive speed at his website (http://chadtollefson.com). Moreover, because the TimberPro has an electric over hydraulic arrangement, it can move and grasp at the same time. That gives the TimberPro operator a boost in tight quarters, making it easy to maneuver quickly to get in position for the appropriate cut.
During the winter of 2012-2013, Chad ran his TimberPro machines in five feet of snow. Their tracks kept them going. (In winter, Chad runs the forwarders with tracks on the back and chains on the front.)
Chad Tollefson Logging cuts 10 or 11 months each year. Chad would like to extend to a full 12 months. Each processor is in service 50 to 60 hours per week. Chad’s team aims to produce 20 to 25 double Michigan logging truck loads of logs per week; it typically does more.
Members of Chad’s team handle much of the routine maintenance on his TimberPro machines. WEI takes care of larger maintenance calls.
“Woodland Equipment – they are good at keeping my machines running,” said Chad. Having a reliable partner in a vendor that is nearby is a nice bonus.
The home base for Chad Tollefson Logging is the town of L’Anse in Baraga County, Mich. L’Anse is a town of 3,800 people. It is situated near Keweenaw Bay on Lake Superior. The western part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is also the home of WEI, which is approximately 60 miles from L’Anse (southwest to Iron River), and Longyear, which is approximately 55 miles from L’Anse (southeast to Marquette).
Chad’s logging team usually works within a one-hour radius of L’Anse. He sometimes collaborates with Longyear on the identification and procurement of available timber. “I like to buy standing timber within the Iron River – L’Anse area,” said Chad. (He notes he is always looking for purchasing opportunities.)
Chad first became SFI certified when he worked for his father. He is, of course, committed to the objectives of SFI, which support the long-term health of forests. As part of his service to customers, Chad discusses options for cutting.
A proponent of the value of selective cutting of hardwoods to maintain the diversity of age and species in a wooded area, woodlot or forest, Chad is well prepared to discuss the process of extracting maximum value and sustaining the growth of new and younger trees. (Ultimately, a certified forester makes all plans for cutting, after inspection of prospective cuts.)
Chad Tollefson Logging also completes clear cuts of aspen and readies building sites. Aspen is a species that thrives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan following a clear cut because it gains an opening to the sun.
Each prospective tract of standing timber is different, however. The correct approach to sustainability is the one Chad recommends. Ensuring that a landowner obtains the maximum value for all fiber harvested is a top priority that Chad brings to each job.
Because Longyear does precise sorts at its log yard, it can send raw material to the destination where it will realize maximum value. Longyear products include high quality slicer veneer logs, rotary veneer logs, saw logs, saw bolts and pulpwood.
Chad began logging when he was 15 years old. “When I started working for my dad, I always [knew I] wanted my own business.”
When Chad ventured out and became a business owner, he did so with two pieces of equipment. They were a 1998 Timbco 415 with a Rolly II head and a Fabtek forwarder.
There is no doubt in Chad’s mind that he chose a great professional path. “It’s a challenge to produce wood,” said Chad. But he explained that he never allows the vagaries of the industry or owning a business to distract him.
“I focus on the positive things,” said Chad. That means, he explained, that he does not dwell on breakdowns or setbacks.
Accentuating the positive is also a way of life at WEI. Woodland Equipment has been in business for more than 30 years. The company serves not only members of the forestry industry, but also those in the construction industry.
Long-term relationships built on mutual trust and open communication are important to WEI, as they are to Chad Tollefson Logging. Just as Chad’s company is determined to aid its customers in obtaining the maximum value from their land, so too does WEI endeavor to enable its customers to get the best value from their equipment. That begins with determining that a buyer gets the machine tailored to the type of logging being done. (WEI visits to customer jobsites are part of the learning – and innovation – process.)
With a specialization in cut-to-length solutions, WEI has been able to meet the needs of customers keen to capture the most value from wood fiber. Its reconditioning program for the Rolly II head, which encompasses cylinder replacement or repacking, has become widely known. One buyer in New Mexico is on the list of enterprises that are benefitting from a reconditioned Rolly II.
The “versatile” nature of the TimberPro is one of several defining features that Chad appreciates, he explained. With versatility increasingly becoming part of any logger’s repertoire, a machine that can fit into many different settings is important. The TimberPro can negotiate the ups and downs and the wet substrate, as well as the snow, of the Upper Peninsula. That makes it a solid and dependable partner to Chad Tollefson Logging.
When Chad gets time away from his business, he enjoys recreational sports. “I got a side-by-side Cam-Am [ATV] to go riding with my wife,” he said. He and his wife also enjoy lake riding on pontoons and boats. And when Chad spoke with us in early August, he was looking forward to attending a preseason game of the Green Bay Packers.
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