Tree-falling paradigm set to shift

Tahlia HopkinsSteep Slope Logging

The rise of winch-assist harvesters – Exports of New Zealand-designed and built high- tech forest machines is set to surge ahead following last month’s Steep Slope Logging Conference in Richmond, BC, Canada. A sell-out audience was on hand to see the new winch-assist mechanized harvesting techniques. Contractors and foresters heard how the new machines have revolutionised safety in New Zealand’s forest industry. With the large technical conference last week, these paradigm-shift in harvesting technology is now better understood in BC, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

With hundreds of US-based and Canadian forest managers and contractors registered, the conference sold out in the final week. Clearly, there was a lot of interest in the range of practical experiences among the five contractors and winch-assist manufacturers from New Zealand. Seeing the equipment in action was even more in demand as places on the field tour sold out weeks ahead of time. The forest locations chosen made for excellent demonstrations of these new machines operating on Vancouver Island.

On conference day the delegates were well-served with a range of loggers and engineers detailing their journey from concept to in-forest production with the now popular winch assist harvesters which have gained a strong reputation for both safety and production in NZ. However, many speakers explained that the benefits gained from New Zealand’s steep slope harvesters had flow to both contractors and licensees in North America – without that the introduction of these paradigm-shifting machines would not be happening.

Several of the speakers now have multiple winch-assist falling machines operating in a number of Pacific Northwest states as well as the BC coast and interior.

  • Falcon Forestry Equipment’s Dale Ewers, whose companies include 14 logging operations spread throughout New Zealand spoke to conference delegates about a range of innovative new logging systems that his large team of loggers and equipment designers have developed and implemented. They largest selling innovation has been the camera grapple carriage that removes the need for men to to on the slope hooking logs on. He also finished his talk with real film footage of his leading-edge research-proven carriage mounted felling head showing how easy it can fell trees.
  • EMS/Tractionline’s Chris Hancock detailed the exhaustive engineering approach they adopted in designing their traction-assist system to meet the appropriate engineering standards and relevant codes. Their equipment is already operating in Washington-based logging contractor, Frank Chandler’s operations.
  • With the several ROB machines already operating in production logging operations on Vancouver Island, Iain May, from Rosewarne and May, explained how their remote-operated bulldozer work. They operate in tandem with the slope-assisted feller bunchers and have been running in second growth settings in Island Timberlands’ private forests. The units are owned and operated by Lyall Newton’s Island Pacific logging operations.
  • Professional forester Ryan Potter, from Tolko Industries in Alberta, spoke to the conference group about the breakthroughs made in their forest operations. He emphasized the need for team communications regarding harvest planning and layout for these new safe and productive logging systems. In the presentation of the day Paul Jensen from ClimbMAX equipment joined in a practical panel session detailing learnings from their long experience having been the pioneers for winch-assist logging operations in North America.