Colorado Company No Ordinary Logging Contracting Business

P&A Forestry Relies on Ponsse CTL Machines for Jobs to Improve Forest Health, Prevent Fires

P&A Forestry is equipped with this Ponsse Scorpion King harvester. The eight-wheel machine is one of Ponsse’s most powerful harvesters. It is powered by a Mercedes-Benz Tier 5 engine that produces 280 hp. The Scorpion King features separate hydraulic circuits for the harvester attachment and crane.
- Advertisement -

ALMA, Colorado – Frank Grzesk can thank the pine beetle for helping grow his company, P&A Forestry. He is no ordinary logging contractor. His company specializes in thinning and fuel reduction work to improve the health of forests and prevent wildfires. The pine beetle epidemic in Colorado and the amount of timber that was infected and damaged increased the need for his company’s services and their volume of work.

The increase in work and the larger jobs also led Frank to convert to mechanical timber harvesting operations. He has invested in Ponsse cut-to-length harvesters and forwarders.
Frank’s company is based in Alma, a small town about 90 miles southwest of Denver. He has a small yard to store equipment and a 3,000-square-foot shop near his home.

Alma is a small town of only about 300 people. (In a region with abundant mines, after gold was discovered the town’s population peaked at 10,000 people in the 1870s.) Situated at 10,578 feet elevation, it is the highest incorporated municipality in the U.S. Alma also has the distinction of being the coldest inhabited town in the lower 48 states.

There are several national forests in the region: Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests to the north, Pike-San Isabel National Forest to the east, Gunnison National Forest to the southwest, and White River National Forest to the west.

Frank grew up in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. He visited Breckenridge, Colorado, about 16 miles north of Alma, to ski when he was a teenager, then moved to Breckenridge after graduating from high school. He returned to Wisconsin after a few years and met his wife, Lisa. They vacationed in Colorado and decided to move to the state and have lived in Alma since 2000.

- Advertisement -

Frank’s company usually employs four men full-time year-round, and he may put on a few more temporary workers in the summer.

This Ponsse Elephant King forwarder gets the wood out for P&A Forestry. The Elephant King is the largest, most powerful of Ponsse’s line of forwarders. It can haul 20 tons of logs and travel up to 12 mph.

P&A Forestry does not do ordinary ‘production’ logging. Frank does not buy standing timber and merchandise the wood to mills, nor does he contract to harvest timber for landowners or industrial forestry businesses. “We do a lot of other projects,” he explained, “like fuel reduction. We’re not necessarily producing wood.”

“Most of our work is service work,” observed Frank, “fuel breaks, fuel reduction, forest health projects.” The company frequently is tasked with logging the merchantable trees and then mulching the understory – brushy vegetation and small trees closest to the forest floor. “That’s our bread and butter,” said Frank.

The company works primarily on national forests in the region as well as some state lands.
Under some contracts, thecontracts the company simply delivers the wood to a landing. In most cases, however, the contract includes hauling away the wood, and Frank contracts for trucking.

Frank, 44, has been doing forestry work for 17 years. He worked as a carpenter and contractor in his early 20s before launching the business. He had a business partner the first year.

“When I first started the company we really focused on smaller, private properties doing hand work,” recalled Frank. The work consisted mainly of removing trees near homes and hazard trees. He had a small crew, and they worked with chainsaws and skid steers.”

As the pine beetle epidemic impacted the region, projects started to increase in size. “We needed to add more equipment and hire more crew, but we still did a lot of work with chainsaws,” said Frank.

Most of the work performed by P&A Forestry is service-related – creating fuel breaks, reducing fuels, and similar forest health projects. The company frequently is tasked with logging the merchantable trees and then mulching the understory – brushy vegetation and small trees closest to the forest floor. About 90 percent of the company’s work is government contracts.

By the time he made the decision to do mechanized logging a few years ago, most jobs were larger in scale. “We are still a small company,” observed Frank, “so we couldn’t physically do the work using chainsaws.”

In addition, Frank enjoys working in the woods and wants to continue as long as he is able. “Running a chainsaw everyday was not feasible.” Also, it was becoming more difficult to hire workers. Mechanical harvesting also is notably more productive and safer.


“It seemed like the right timing to move into mechanized logging. I discovered Ponsse and researched, asked questions and watched videos of people operating the machines. It felt like the right fit for our business.”

Frank has been a Ponsse customer for about three years. He has purchased all his Ponsse machines directly from Ponsse and its North American headquarters in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. He has dealt with Ponsse support personnel in Rhinelander over the years, althoughyears although the company recently placed a full-time technician in Colorado to service customers.

His first Ponsse machines, which he bought used, were a Ponsse Ergo Harvester and two Ponsse Buffalo forwarders. He later traded them in for two 2015 machines: a Ponsse Scorpion King harvester and a Ponsse Elephant King forwarder.

Prior to purchasing his first Ponsse machines, Frank somewhat combined tree-length logging methods with cut-to-length logging. Most timber felling was done by hand with chainsaws. Frank also had an excavator with a stroke boom delimber mounted on it, an old Franklin forwarder, and a Timberjack skidder. With the move to Ponsse machines, the company transitioned to mechanical harvesting and solely cut-to-length logging.

As Frank weighed his options for equipment to convert to mechanical harvesting, he considered a number of manufacturers. “I looked around quite a bit,” he said.

One thing that drew him to Ponsse was the company’s personnel. “They’re really good,” he said, at providing technical assistance. “I felt like they had the best customer support.”

Another reason was that Ponsse’s focus is solely on cut-to-length logging equipment.

“They’re focused, dedicated to cut-to-length,” said Frank.

He did not know any other logging contractors who owned Ponsse machines, so he hadn’t even seen Ponsse equipment operation in person.

P&A Forestry is equipped with four machines to perform forestry mulching, including the Raptor mulching tractor above made by German manufacturer Prinoth. The company also has a Fecon steel track machine with mulching attachment and two Kubota skid steers with Fecon mulching attachments.

Frank made a trip to Rhinelander to see the machines, and Ponsse staff demonstrated them before he made the final purchase decision. Ponsse arranged delivery of the machines to Colorado.

The Ponsse Scorpion King is one of the company’s most powerful harvesters. An eight-wheel harvester, it is powered by a Mercedes-Benz Tier 5 engine that produces 280 hp. The Scorpion King features separate hydraulic circuits for the harvester attachment and crane.

The cab is spacious and designed to keep the operator safe and comfortable for productive work all day. The crane is mounted behind the cab, which allows good visibility for the operator. The cab is in the middle of the machine, and the operator is in the middle of the cab’s turning radius. The crane solution and cab design afford excellent visibility in every direction, which enhances operating efficiency.

Ponsse’s patented active stabilization system detects the crane direction and position and stabilizes the rear frame when working on the side of the machine and when the harvester is moving.

The cab leveling system balances the operator station even in difficult terrain; the middle frame, which contains the cabin, is kept hydraulically balanced while the front and rear frames tilt according to the terrain. The low pivot point minimizes lateral swaying and keeps the center of mass at the machine’s center line.

The Elephant King is the largest, most powerful of Ponsse’s line of forwarders. It can haul 20 tons of logs and travel up to 12 mph. The frame is designed for durability and ease of maintenance; the frame oscillation lock with hydraulic cylinders acts as a shock absorber when driving.

Ponsse forwarders have a continuously variable transmission, which enables higher fuel economy and tractive force, particularly in difficult terrain. Ponsse’s Active Frame cabin suspension system is available as an option along with the Active Crane system for controlling grapple operations.

Frank Grzesk says one of the things that attracted him to Ponsse was the company’s personnel. ‘They’re really good,’ he says, at providing technical assistance. ‘I felt like they had the best customer support.’

(For more information about Ponsse and its product line, visit

“We love ’em,” said Frank. “They probably always exceed our expectations I’d say.” He’s been very pleased with their fuel economy, especially compared to the mulchers, which use a lot of diesel fuel.

He also praised the climbing ability of both Ponsse machines and the leveling capability for the harvester’s cab. “The visibility is phenomenal, too,” said Frank, who also lauded the forwarder’s capacity. He would “readily recommend the Ponsse machines to other loggers,” he said.

Frank and his crew perform most routine maintenance on the machines. For more intricate tasks he will rely on Ponsse’s technician.

In addition to his Ponsse Machines, Frank still owns a Timberjack skidder. He also owns four machines to perform forestry mulching: a Fecon steel track machine with mulching attachment, two Kubota skid steers with Fecon mulching attachments, and a Raptor mulching tractor, which is made by German manufacturer Prinoth. The company also has three Ryan’s Equipment rotating grapple attachments and a Ryan’s tree shear.

When Frank talked to TimberLine his company was working on a job comprising 125 acres, a combined job for Denver Mountain Parks and the Jefferson Conservation District. Foresters had already marked all the trees to be kept, and Frank’s crew was removing everything else to thin the forest, reducing fuels and improving forest health. Most of the trees 6 inches in diameter and smaller were being masticated while everything greater than 6 inches was being logged. The slash and tops were being masticated as well. As you might expect, the terrain is steep and rocky. There are two forest types on this project, mixed conifer as well as lodgepole pine.

About 90 percent of the company’s work is government contracts. The remaining 10 percent are jobs done for private landowners.

The terrain in the region is generally steep and rocky; the average slope probably ranges from 15-30 degrees, estimated Frank. In addition to lodgepole pine, the other most common species are ponderosa pine and Douglas fir.

On a typical job, one man runs the harvester, one man operates the forwarder, and the other two operate mulching equipment. The men usually rotate machine duties so they operate different pieces of equipment from time to time. Frank spends most of his time supervising, traveling to pick up and retrieve parts, or lining up the next jobs.

Frank added mulching equipment just a few years after launching the company. “We’ve done a lot of jobs that are mulching only,” he said. In fact, more and more jobs require mulching. Some landowners prefer it to ordinary logging operations. The mulchers are used to clear trails and access roads; they also are used to remove understory vegetation and non-merchantable trees as well as grinding logging slash.

For some jobs the company cuts the undesirable trees and vegetation and forms it in piles. “If we are doing a mechanized job that requires piling, we use our forwarder to pile slash for burning,” said Frank. “We do not do any of the burning. That is typically done by the U.S. Forest Service.” In the past some jobs required more manual labor and piling small teepee piles by hand.

Bidding jobs is very specific because of the nature of the work. Jobs are usually priced by the acre. Frank considers the quality of the wood, if any of the wood will be merchandised, will the job involve mulching, and other factors such as access, slope, and so on.

“We’ve done all different aspects of forestry,” said Frank.

His wife, Lisa, manages the company’s books. Their 16-year-old son, Frank Jr., has begun working in the business during summers. and last year operated a mulcher and also did some work with a chainsaw.

In his free time Frank enjoys hiking with his family. He also enjoys winter activities, noting that the region experiences winter weather nine months out of year because of the high elevation.

“We don’t want to be the biggest,” said Frank. “We want to be the best.”