Oregon Logger Stakes Success on Thinning

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Rottne Cut-to-Length Machines Allow Ziglinski Cutting to Work on Fewer Trails, Conserving Residual Trees

SCIO, Oregon — When the Oregon Department of Forestry chose Steve Ziglinski for its Operator of the Year award for 1998 in the northwest region of the state, it did so on the basis of Steve’s dedication to utilizing the most advanced techniques possible to do quality thinning on customer lands.

Steve operates a company that is not only an example of modern production logging, but also one that works to conserve natural resources for future generations, the Department of Forestry said in making its award.

Rottne cut-to-length machinery used by Ziglinski Cutting Inc. has been one of its keys to success, according to Steve and the Department of Forestry.

Steve’s company is based in Scio, a town just a few miles from the capital city of Salem. Sandwiched between the Oregon coastal mountain range and the Cascade Mountains, the hillsides of the Willamette Valley, with Scio near its center, contain some of the best softwood-growing conditions — soil and climate — in the world. Hemlock, Douglas fir and numerous other species blanket the mountain slopes to both sides of the valley.

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In and around the valley, the great trees for which the Pacific Northwest is renowned grow rapidly to tremendous size. Properly cared for, especially when thinned early, trees in the region produce more high quality wood in a shorter time frame than almost anywhere in the world.

Thinning contractors, like Steve, play an important role in the profitability of their clients. They remove large volumes of fiber during thinning but at the same time must carefully protect and conserve residual trees and the future timber they represent. Mistakes have a significantly greater impact on future profitability than errors made in slower-growing forests that produce less valuable fiber.

In the world of thinning, Ziglinski Cutting Inc. has a sterling reputation. The company was recognized by the Department of Forestry for its efforts and also for its “state-of-the-art” logging equipment.

“Steve conducted the operation with virtually no damage to the uncut trees,” said Shannon Gisler, a forest practices forester for the Department of Forestry. “This is an example of how using the right equipment can meet the logging production needs of the operator while, at the same time, ensure protection and stewardship of the resource.”

The equipment referred to in the agency’s award is Ziglinski Cutting’s cut-to-length machines. Steve’s company is equipped with a Rottne 2002 harvester, a Rottne 5000 harvester, and a Rottne Rapid G forwarder. The combination of machines allows Steve to perform careful, select thins in the rough terrain surrounding the Willamette Valley — work that would be difficult to accomplish with other equipment.

The forests of the Pacific Northwest are not like the neat rows of pines that grow on even ground in the plantations of the South and elsewhere, and thinning practices are different, too. As is the case anywhere, however, a good thinning job requires complete removal of stems that are damaged, of inferior quality, diseased, or crowding other, better stems and leaving as many of the superior stems as possible.

Usually there are no rows to follow, and loggers have discretion in deciding the path the forwarder will travel. With the high potential value of the trees, loggers must create as few of these corridors as possible. In thinning these forests, therefore, there is a premium on the ability of harvesting equipment to go into the woods on either side of the forwarder trail in order to harvest trees and to place the wood near the trail for the forwarder. In the Pacific Northwest, the ‘ghost trail’ is the area to either side of the forwarder that the harvester can work in and still leave logs for the forwarder to retrieve.

The Rottne 2002 excels at allowing Steve to work well off the main trail, which means fewer trails for the forwarder are required. The result is that more quality residual trees can be left in the forest after the thinning job is done.

“The 2002 is narrow and very maneuverable,” said Steve. “Because we can get around so well, we can wander around and cut the intermediate trees well off the forwarder trail. Working with it in the right kind of stand, we can get away with corridors for the forwarder that are 125 feet apart instead of 50 to 60 feet. When you calculate how much less corridor area is needed over a full harvest, it is easy to see what a tremendous difference you’re making. You’re taking much less land out of production, which really improves the value of the thinning for the customer.”

Steve was an early convert to cut-to-length logging, especially for the temperate coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest. “I started looking at cut-to-length in the late 1980s,” he said. “There weren’t many operations using it out here then, so I started sending away for brochures and reading them. It seemed to me like something that ought to work well out here. It’s a really clean way to harvest and doesn’t cause the ground damage that skidder-based logging does.

“Finally,” he continued, “I got an opportunity to try it. I had a progressive landowner who wanted to get into early thinning, so I went to Maine and watched the Rottne equipment at work. It looked like the kind of machine that could do the job I wanted to do, so I committed for the 2002 in December of 1994. I think the machine I looked at was the only one in the U.S. at the time. Mine was second.”

The machine turned out to be everything Steve thought it would. He ran it four years, using it to conduct early thins. He expanded in 1998 with an investment in the Rottne 5000.

The addition of the Rottne 5000 has allowed him to increase efficiency and to serve a wider range of customers. Steve uses the Rottne 5000 in larger timber and also to clear trails for the forwarder while the 2002 operates in the ‘ghost trails’ and in stands of smaller wood.

Logging is not the only thing at which Ziglinski Cutting excels. The combination of equipment that Steve has assembled for his company also enables Ziglinski Cutting to perform habitat restoration work. In fact, the work he did to improve natural resources was part of the reason for the award he received from the Department of Forestry.

“In addition to the thinning, Ziglinski Cutting Inc. placed large logs in Ella Creek to improve fish habitat,” said Shannon. “The creek had been identified as being deficient of large wood — an important component in streams because the wood creates deeper pools and other habitat important to fish. The stream enhancement project was conducted in such a way that no trees had to be removed from the stream side (i.e. riparian) area, nor was it necessary to have any equipment within the stream channel, as is usually necessary to get this type of work done.”

The versatility of the Rottne equipment is very important to Steve. He harvests large stands as well as stands as small as 20 acres. As is the case in much of the Pacific Northwest, stem size can vary greatly, so the ability to harvest large quantities of small wood quickly with the 2002 or larger wood with the 5000 is an advantage.

The ground in much of the Pacific Northwest is also difficult to harvest. The steep slopes and damp weather can create conditions that make it tough to work and conserve natural resources. “I can get into some pretty rugged places and do the kind of thinning job I expect of myself,” said Steve. “It allows me to do what I think is important out there in the woods.”

The hallmark of the best loggers is a desire to serve their customers while conserving natural resources. His award for Operator of the Year recognized his efforts on behalf of conservation, and Steve is an example of the best the forest products industry has to offer.

Rikard Olofson, president of Blondin, the U.S. distributor for Rottne machinery, said Steve is the kind of timber harvesting contractor that the timber industry of the future will be built upon.

“Steve isn’t afraid of something different,” said Rikard. “He is wiling to look at something new, and if he thinks it will be better for the environment and will allow him to do the kind of job he believes he ought to do for his customer, he will take a chance and try it. Steve has the kind of dedication to a quality job our industry needs to remain healthy and grow into the future.”