Experience a Big Plus as Northwest Loggers Step into Business Ownership

Log Max Heads a Good Fit for Cut-to-Length Operations

Erik Karber, Forestree president, runs the Komatsu 360 with the Log Max 10000XT head. Karber refers to the Log Max as “the backbone” of his company; the machine easily handles big trees up to 35.4 inches in diameter, including white fir, hemlock, red fir and cedar.
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Cut-to-length in the Northern Rockies? Yes.

Forestree is one of the companies using CTL methods in the Northwest region of the United States. Erik Karber, president of the company, spoke with us about the capability the Log Max 10000XT has to handle the big species he harvests and processes.

White fir, hemlock, red fir, cedar and larch are big trees. Yet with his Log Max 10000XT, Erik said he can process 98 percent of them because the machine easily handles a 35-inch diameter tree.

Forestree is a relatively new company in the sense that Erik and Rick Huddleston, vice president, joined forces and bought an existing company in May 2017 and gave it a new name. The previous owner was Ryan Yearout (Yearout Logging) and Erik worked for him for 11 years as a processor operator.

The experience Erik had working for Yearout was all on Log Max machines. “I started out with a 7000,” he said. He then moved to a 7000XT and finally to a 10000XT.

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“I’ve been a Log Max user for 14 years,” said Erik. “I like everything about the head.”

The Log Max 10000XT that Erik operates at Forestree rides on a 360 Komatsu. “My Log Max is the backbone of my company – very dependable and does quality work,” he said.

The dependability is put to the test every day because the Log Max 10000XT sees 60 hours of service each week. And again, that’s harvesting big trees.

Erik has a second Log Max 10000XT, which is mounted on a Cat 329 carrier. That pairing is used in an arrangement with a subcontractor to Erik who does line logging. The Log Max, in service with a line subcontractor to Forestree, also sees 60 hours of service each week.

Forestree has a definite niche. “We don’t do steep slopes,” explained Erik.

“I’m a contracted logger,” said Erik. He explained that he works for two big companies and they set the place and the parameters for jobs.

Forestree works primarily for PotlatchDeltic Corporation, which was formed by the merger of Potlatch Corporation and Deltic Timber Corporation in February 2018. According to a press release announcing the merger, PotlatchDeltic has a lumber capacity of 1.2 billion board feet per year.

Erik’s company contributes 11 million board feet per year to that total. “We haul to various mills,” he explained.

The company that hires Forestree assigns the tract and provides the parameters of how the job is to be done. Equipment used by Erik’s team includes a 527 Caterpillar, a Doosan log loader new in 2016, and a 648 John Deere skidder.

Lengths are skidded to a landing for processing. Contract haulers move lengths from the landing to mills.

Among the destinations for the wood fiber that does not go to lumber mills are pulp and paper companies. Much of the low-grade fiber becomes hog fuel at those companies.

Saint Maries, the home to Forestree, is less than 100 miles from the Canadian border. It is part of Benewah County. Approximately 2,400 people live in the city.

Saint Joe River meanders through north-central Idaho and Saint Maries is built along the river. The river is on the western side of the slopes of the Northern Rockies and serves as a good indicator of much of the relatively flat land where Forestree works.

Erik’s business partner Rick also operates a machine, the 745C TimberPro.

The line logging that Forestree puts in the hands of a subcontractor uses overhead choker and choker hooks or carriages on guide lines to do the steep slope equivalent of skidding logs. “Line skidding” is the term Erik uses to describe it.

The Forestree crew includes (left to right): Brandon Muster, David Reid, Glenn Nordin, and Ryan Huddleston.

Yarding and Loading (published in 1993 by the Department of Insurance and Finance of the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division) is a standout publication – because of illustrations and clarity – on the subject of steep slope logging in the West. It is still available.

The fact that Erik’s subcontractor uses the Log Max 10000XT on the 329 Caterpillar carrier at a yarding side in a line operation adds another illustration of the toughness of the Log Max machine. When Erik reflects on his experience in logging, he notes how quickly much has changed.

“I come from a family of loggers,” said Erik. “I started logging when I was 13.” Among his first tasks were sawing at the landing and helping his father, John “Johnny” Bailey, build roads.

There are five employees at Forestree. Carol Karber, Erik’s wife handles all bookkeeping and many logistics. She is an invaluable team member, said Erik.

As for how Erik became a business owner, he said the answer is simple. “I always wanted to own my own company,” he explained. “I had to wait for the right opportunity.”

Forestree operates 10 months each year, pausing for what can be a significant mud season. Erik said it has been unusually dry in the Gem State. The feet of snow that would be expected to be on the ground in early January, when he talked with us, were absent.

As someone who has operated a Log Max harvester/processor for 14 years, Erik has had a good vantage for appreciating changes and improvements. “The diameter system works much better” on the Log Max 10000XT than it did on the first Log Max 7000 he operated, he explained.

“The Log Max is slowly getting easier to work on,” said Erik. He wants the easiest possible access for routine maintenance and the access on the Log Max is now very good.

Erik said he is also pleased that the computers on the Log Max have become “more compact” and “more plug and play.” Log Max puts enormous emphasis on listening to customers and responding to suggestions through innovation.

The Log Mate 510 is the most recent release of the Log Mate computer control system. It offers full control over all Log Max harvester head functions. It also provides production reporting.

Sixty hours of service each week is a lot of activity. Good backup is critical. And Erik gets it.

“I can’t say enough about the support of Andreas [Karlsson] in Vancouver,” said Erik. “Top-notch support.”

The U.S. headquarters for Log Max, Inc. is in Vancouver, Washington. Log Max is a company established in Sweden.

The XTreme series of Log Max heads was developed to provide a heavy-duty, track-carried partner in tough jobs. The Log Max 10000XT cuts wood up to 35.4 inches in diameter. ‘Productive’ and ‘durable’ are the two harvesting/processing features Log Max designers endeavored to tie together in the XTreme series.

The Log Max 10000XT was developed specifically to be matched with track carriers. It can be configured as a harvester for felling and processing at the stump or it can be used as a dedicated processor. Both the harvester and dedicated processor versions of the Log Max 10000XT have an integrated top saw.

Formidably weighty track carriers are a must for the type of work Forestree does. But for loggers that harvest and process smaller trees, the Log Max 10000XT can be mounted on a relatively light carrier – an arrangement that may yield fuel savings.

The single-grip feature of the Log Max heads reduces the marks on the circumference of a log. The more integrity lengths retain, the more quality lumber can be produced at the grade mills.

Versatility of the Log Max 10000XT makes it possible for Erik to own two of the machines but deploy them in very different ways: CTL and line logging (done by subcontractor).

Good equipment is imperative. But Erik stresses that it must be used in combination with a good team of people.

“The company is only as good as the employees working for me,” said Erik. “I have really good people down here.” Erik said retention at Forestree is excellent.

“I’m part of the Idaho Pro-Logger program,” said Erik. The program was established in 1998 to meet the educational needs of loggers, as well as forest owners and forest products companies. The Idaho Pro-Logger program also aims to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and other forested land certification programs.

The production reporting made possible with the Log Mate 510 system is useful in ascertaining objectives of SFI are met. The reporting also allows contractors, such as Forestree, to provide an accurate and immediate accounting of production to the companies for which they work and to state foresters.

Erik said he is very happy with his professional course. “I like the independence of it,” he said, citing the ability to self-direct as a business owner. He cautions that “you have to be driven” to operate a business. Not every day is free of trials. And obstacles must be overcome.

Fishing is a favorite free-time activity for Erik. With the two-month break necessitated by substrate concerns each year, Erik has time to “go fishing” in places distant from Idaho. He often goes to the Oregon coast to fish and has also traveled to Alaska. “Maybe Belize this year,” he said.