Forestry Friday … Feller Buncher

logging sports, loggers, chopping, ax

A speed chopping contest between Oregon State University and Shasta College students. Logging sports like this were inspired by how it was once done.

Every time I see a news report where the reporter says loggers “chopped” down trees, I want to bang my head against the coffee table. Loggers haven’t chopped down trees since chainsaws took over the job in the 30’s and 40’s.

chainsaw, logger, logging, faller, falling, felling, bucking, limbing

Using a chainsaw to limb a Ponderosa pine tree.

Chainsaws are still on every logging job, but now they share much of the tree falling duty with the feller bunchers. These machines look more like something from Star Wars. It’s not what most folks would expect on a logging job.

feller buncher, falling, felling, cutting, timber, loggers, logging

The disk on the front of the feller buncher is the saw blade. This type of saw head is called a “hot saw” because it runs constantly.

This machine is working on a fire salvage operation from last years wildfires. They cut trees all day long.

They grab the trees when they cut them. The trees are then stacked up in a "doodle" for the skidders to take to the log landing.

They grab the trees when they cut them. The trees are then stacked up in a “doodle” for the skidders to take to the log landing.

Life is a lot different for the loggers these days. Working in an air-condition cab is a world away for the days of axes and misery whips.

Forestry, mentoring, education

This tree shear is another example of tree cutting technology. Don’t worry, we let her go.

How Is A Forester Like An Artist?

The forester and the artist both create landscapes.  Only a forester’s canvas is far larger than an artist’s canvas.  The artist uses pencils, pens, brushes and all the other tools that create the play of color and light on paper.  The forester’s tools are far larger, louder and powerful.  They are the skidders, feller-bunchers, chainsaws, yarders and seedlings.  Okay, I know what you are thinking, what kind of baloney is this guy selling.  When we look out at a forest we see a beautiful thing.  Harvesting trees changes how that forest looks and develops.  The conventional wisdom may be that harvesting trees makes a forest ugly and at stages along the way I would agree.  That is all part of the process.  When an area is burned in a wildfire and the salvage harvest is complete it looks pretty bad to most folks.  This is only one stage in the development of an ever-changing picture.  Soon the seedlings come and it is no longer a barren clearcut, but it is a brand new forest.

A new forest rising from ashes of a wildfire.

Each year the trees grow and the picture is adorned with deer, turkeys and other wildlife that forage in this new forest.  As a forester I relish the changes I see with each passing year and how our work adds to the picture.  For a forester the picture is never done so we have to appreciate it for what it is at this moment in time.  Most folks have memories of that favorite camping spot in the forest that they went to as a child.  Memories that are so striking and indelible that they cannot imagine them ever changing.  However, these forest change every day.  Mostly slowly, but sometimes in blazing moments.  To the forest the changes are not good or bad, but simply different.  To the forester it is a canvas on which to apply his or her trade.  The forest changes and grows and our pictures change with it.  We may not always agree on what makes beautiful art or a beautiful forest, but I hope as practitioners of the trade we are passionate and dedicated to the process.

I did this watercolor for the children’s book Firestorm In The Forest , a Red Tail Publishing book.

As an artist working in the forest provides an endless source of subjects to paint or draw.  Never stale and always changing.  I never know when I will come across a bear crashing through the brush or a dramatic vista that will make me pause for a minute to take it in.