The jaws of a multi-ton harvester, operated by Paul Rogge, close around the base of a Douglas fir. It takes Rogge 10 seconds to sever the tree from the ground, de-limb it while feeding the trunk through the harvester’s head, and stack it on a pile of other fir, cedar, and alder logs.
The multi ton machine with six-foot-tall tires could do a lot of damage to the ribbon of trail snaking through the forest just feet away.
Rogge and his employer, Janicki Logging, strive to minimize damage to the trails on Galbraith Mountain east of Bellingham. While many logging companies and forest managers in Western Washington are restricting recreational access, Janicki Logging and Polygon Financial, which owns the land, are working with user groups to allow access and avoid damaging trails.
“It costs us a little bit more to preserve the trails, but it’s just not that big a deal,” said Rob Janicki, whose family started the company in 1957. “I mean, how much does it cost you in time to hold the door for an old lady?”
Janicki said the nonprofit Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition’s help reduces the expense of preserving trails. Members of the mountain bike group mark trails with pink flagging tape in areas slated to be thinned or cut to help loggers identify and avoid them.
Another factor that makes the cooperation possible is the company’s philosophy of sustainable forestry, Janicki said.
Other companies would log Galbraith in clear-cuts on a 30-year rotation, Janicki said. Previously, the mountain was clearcut in 500- to 1,000-acre sections. Janicki Logging clear-cuts 50 acres a year and thins about 150 acres. At that rate, it will take 50 years to harvest the whole forest.
Not only does this slower rotation spread out impact to the trails, it also maximizes profit for Janicki Logging. By thinning trees and letting them grow for longer, Janicki gets more yield long-term.
“We’ll generate more yield per acre, per year than the big companies,” Janicki said. “But you don’t see it next quarter. It takes multiple generations to see that value.”