No more Paul Bunyon with his trusty axe. Or even the more-modern logger alone in the woods with a chain saw.
When loggers cut trees in this heavily wooded area of interior British Columbia, they use a machine called a shearer, which stands on giant tires tall as an adult. A shearer has two hydraulically powered pincers that can snap a two-foot-wide tree at its base as easily as if it were a match stick, carry its 95-foot length like a flag staff to a clearing and lay it down neatly.
This $250,000 piece of equipment has revolutionized logging. It cuts 1,200 trees a day compared to 150 for a top-flight lumberman using a chain saw. And instead of leaving the logs scattered where they fall, it places them in a pile, like new-mown hay, for easy loading on giant trucks.
It is, moreover, far safer than older logging methods. No longer do loggers run the risk of a "white out" from snow shaken from tree tops, which leaves them vulnerable to getting caught in the path of giant falling limbs and unable to see which way to run for safety, said George R. Richards, general manager of interior operations for Weldwood of Canada Ltd. Nor do loggers now have to cut trees from an eye-deep hole in the snow so they can get at the base, a practice which also made it hard for them to escape in case of an accident.
But the shearer has raised the capital costs of logging. A logging contractors' rig of three skidders to move logs on the ground, two loaders and two shearers can run $2.2 million. A loader alone, which picked up about 10 logs in a giant claw and puts them on a truck, costs about $280,000. The trucks each cost about $36,000.
Shearers don't work on the coast or in some mountainous areas of British Columbia, where the terrain is too rough to allow machines to maneuver around the forest. There, trees are still felled by chain saws and logs are skidded down the hillsides, often with the aide of high metal towers if a tall tree is not available as a spar.
In Oregon and Washington, the U.S. Forest Service sometimes orders what V. M. (Whitey) Howard, general manager of Seneca Sawmill Co. of Eugene, Ore., calls "exotic logging" on public lands. This includes transporting logs using giant helicopters or large hot air ballons to limit damage to the forest floor by dragging timber.
A company called Flying Scotsman Inc. in Eugene offers a helium-filled balloon that can move logs down a mountain. The system costs $1.6 million to $1.8 million.