Hometown Logger Rewarded for Innovative Management
By Jan Jackson
When a roadless stand of timber must be harvested and transported across a fish bearing stream, one’s first thought might be to build a bridge. That was Tony Hauth’s first thought too, but he didn’t like the time and money it would take to build it. The solution he came up with, earned him the title of 2021 Eastern Oregon Operator of the Year. Born and raised in Burns (where he still lives), Tony, owns and operates H Timber Contracting, LLC, and works for landowners on Oregon’s east side. It was a logging job in John Day that required what turned out to be a prize winning innovation.
The Operator of the Year Award recognizes forest operators who, while harvesting timber or doing other forestry work, protect natural resources at a level that goes above and beyond requirements of the Oregon Forest Practices Act.
“Anyone can nominate someone,” Jim Gerbach, ODF Public Affairs Specialist said. “It could be a landowner, a fellow harvester or someone who’s admired someone’s work. Whoever nominates, fills out a form and documents why they are making the nomination. They submit the form to the regional forest practices committees who follow up and make the final decision.”
HAUTH’S WINNING INNOVATION
“We had the logs on one side of the creek and the mill on the other and no roads or any way to cross the stream without disturbing it,” Tony said. “Fortunately, I keep a culvert on hand for times I might need a creek crossing and we obviously had logs on hand. I ended up putting in a temporary culvert and cribbed it up with logs so when it took the weight, the culvert didn’t get smashed. We put the big processor, the whole tree processor, and the piled-up brush on the timber side of the creek and as they limbed the trees they passed the logs over to me in my log loader on the other side. I decked the logs along the road, loaded the trucks when they came in and then went back to grabbing and decking. When we finished, we pulled the culvert, put the logs that we used on the crossing on a log truck and sent them to the mill as well.”
LOGGING ON THE EAST SIDE
Tony, who believes that if you take care of the land, it will take care of you, operates with a small crew. His collection of equipment includes a CAT rubber tire 525 grapple skidder, a D5 high track CAT with a grapple on the back of it, a 95,000-pound Link-Belt Processor and a John Deer log loader. They often work miles from the stands of Douglas fir and pine that he manages for his clients.
“Besides me, my crew is made up of a timber faller, a processor operator and a skidder operator,” Tony said. “Besides doing whatever is needed, I mostly cut, load, and build roads. I’m on the job site during the week, I have a bookkeeper that does payroll and all, and I do the rest of my paperwork on the weekends. We all live in Burns and our jobs can be as far away as Baker City, the Wallowas or Spray or as close as John Day. When we can’t drive to work every day, we live at the logging site in our individual camping trailers.”
Tony grew up with a dad who spent his life working as a saw filer for the Edward Heinz Mill in Burns (which switched hands to Snow Mountain Pine), working in Alaska for a little bit and then back to Louisiana Pacific’s mill until it closed. Tony however, started logging right out of high school while he waited to go to welding school. He welds as a logger, but he liked logging so much, he never made it to welding school.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes since I started,” Tony said. “When I was a kid, you had to look both was before crossing the street in Burns or you risked getting run over by a log truck. By 1996 though, when I was 18 or 19 and had graduated from high school, there was hardly anything going on. We had a couple of little jobs here and there, but if you saw a log truck come through town you had a good idea the driver was lost.
“I started out just working on the landing as a knot bumper and then started cutting timber a couple years later. I did that for quite a while. When I first started my business in 2003, I mostly just ran around contract cutting timber. And then I bought a skidder and did little jobs for the landowners on the side but still cut timber. And then just like anything else, eventually ended buying a little more and a little more to keep going.
“I think my favorite part of the job is still cutting timber. Every tree is different and there’s a spot they need to go so you don’t tear up the other trees in case it falls on them. And of course, you don’t want to break the tree by having it hit any stumps or rocks. It adds a challenge to my working day and makes it seem shorter than it would otherwise. I’ll I do some of the cutting, we’ll run two to three hand cutters in the bigger timber and bring in a contractor with a feller buncher in small timber. When things slow down, I’ll do all the hand cutting.”
Because of Covid-19, Oregon Department of Forestry came to his logging site and presented him with his award. Asked if he was surprised to win Operator of the Year, he said he was and added that including his crew, he had a lot of people to thank.
“We always try to do a real good job on all of our jobs just so it doesn’t get a bad name,” Tony said. “Besides, when you do a good job for one landowner, tells his friends. Our main forester Kirk Ausland is good to work with and we can always usually make plans and work good together. Our private timber consultant Jeff Maben helps a lot too finding jobs, marking trees, and running lines. Between them and my crew, we got it done.
“We not only harvest fir, pine and a little juniper for our clients but help them with bug infestation and fire suppression. One of the biggest challenges is when you get one of these landowners whose timber borders a National Forest which is just like being up against a wall of kindling. For those folks, we’ll make a point to cut that boundary a lot heavier than we do the rest of their timber just to hopefully create and protect them with a fire break.
We get about 10-months of work a year, sometimes more if we’re lucky. It starts getting muddy over here in March and April and it’s just not feasible to spend all the money rocking the roads. That’s the time of year the catfish and sturgeon start calling and it’s pretty sure you’ll find me fishing.”
Photo’s by Tony Hauth. Cover photo shows Hauth (center) receiving his award on the job site during to Covid 19 lockdown. Left is crew member Archie (Bud) Geiger and private timber consultant Jeff Mayben.