Cky-Ber Enterprises Inc
This was on Bret's table when I was there. He is a logger.
Ran across this photo of Teddy R.. Maybe he is on to something here.

Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts…It’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled…Credit belongs to the man who really was in the arena, his face marred by dust, sweat, and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs to come up short and short again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. It is the man who actually strives to do the deeds, who knows the great enthusiasm and great devotion, who spends himself on a worthy cause, who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of great achievement. And who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and cruel souls who know neither victory nor defeat..

My friend Jim Peterson of the Evergreen Foundation wrote this. Have a read.

This is Embarrassing


By Jim Petersen, Co-founder, the non-profit Evergreen Foundation



Last night, I talked to my friend, Craig Thomas.


I was on my cell phone seated comfortably in my office in Bigfork, Montana and he was driving down the highway near Sabetha, Kansas, 1,478 miles from home.


Sabetha, population 2,550, is about 60 miles north of Topeka on U.S. 75. Craig tells me he is not quite in the middle of nowhere, but he can see it from Sabetha. I have no doubt, having traveled through Topeka in 1996 enroute to a great forestry story in Tennessee.


Craig is a logger. In a parallel – and kinder - universe, he would be back home in Stevensville, about two hours south of Bigfork. He should be logging in the mountains of western Montana, but there is no work here, despite the fact that our dead and dying national forests could use a whole lot of sprucing up.


And why isn’t there any work here? It isn’t because of the recession, which may be showing signs of waning. It is because Congress is clueless.


Consider the current debate over whether to include federal biomass – that’s the dead and dying crap that is littering our bug-infested forests – in the renewable energy bill that is winding its way through the House enroute to the Senate. As things now stand, federal biomass won’t be included, thanks to the arrogance and ignorance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and California Democrat, Henry Waxman, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.


If you want to know more about this sorry mess, read “This is just crazy,” my May 21 column. And if you want to know just how much biomass energy potential is locked away in western federal forests, go to the biomass section on our website. The federally-funded “Billion Ton Report” will get you started, but be sure to also read Todd Morgan’s state-funded Montana assessment. It will give you a good feel for the scope of the forest crisis that Congress helped create, but now chooses to ignore.  


Meanwhile, back in a motel in Sabetha, my friend Craig rose at 4 a.m. this morning to go to work in a cornfield. You don’t often see Timbco forwarders working in Midwestern cornfields, but the nearby photographs Craig e-mailed to me tell me that he is a helluva long way from home doing work Timbco forwarders weren’t designed to do.


Forwarders are normally used to pick up small logs in the woods. They are used in tandem with “cut-to-length” harvesting machines that can surgically remove a single tree from a patch of trees without harming other trees. Craig owns a harvester, too, but it’s back home in Montana. He’s using the forwarder in Kansas to pick up brush along the route for a new pipeline that will bring oil from Canada into the Midwest.


Craig has been in Kansas since mid-May. He has no idea when he’ll be home again, but he’s grateful for work, even if it is half-way across the country in the middle of nowhere. He works six, 10-hour days a week. Most folks will think that is a long week, but he describes it as “a vacation from logging,” mainly because it’s a union job.


“I broke a hydraulic hose on the forwarder the other day,” he says with characteristic good humor. “Normally, I’d fix it myself and go on about my business. But in the blink of an eye I had six mechanics and their helpers standing there asking me what I needed. It was great!”


Humor aside, the fact that Craig Thomas had to go all the way to Kansas to find work for his state-of-the-art logging equipment isn’t a damned bit funny, not with all the work that needs to be done in forests that he can see from the kitchen window at home. Congress ought to be embarrassed, if that is possible.


There is enough cleanup work to be done in western national forests to keep hundreds of Craig Thomas’s busy for the rest of their working lives. By the U.S. Forest Service’s own estimate somewhere between 60 and 80 million acres of our national forest system lands are either ready to burn or soon will be unless Congress authorizes the thinning work that is so desperately needed.


For the record, 80 million acres spans 125,000 square miles – an area almost as large as Montana, or perhaps more apropos, an area nearly as large as the combined size of South Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia. For added perspective, the Great Lakes cover 94,000 square miles.


Our national forests are in dreadful shape because we no longer care for them. Congress has bought into the loopy idea that nature can care for forests better than we can. This is nonsense. Nature doesn’t give a hoot in hell about our country’s social or economic needs or about clean air, clean water, or abundant fish and wildfire habitat or the wealth of year round recreation opportunity we all seem to think is our birthright.


I’ve got news for the Congress. Excluding biomass gathered in federal forests from the new renewable energy standard is a death sentence for forests this nation’s voters love very much. I know voters feel strongly about their forests because I’ve seen the polling data that was done during the debate that preceded passage of the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act. More than 80 percent of polling and focus group respondents living in major urban centers favor thinning over wildfire.


If we don’t soon start cleaning up the mess in our forests, nature will. In fact, nature is doing it now. Witness the millions of acres we lose annually in fires that burn so hot they melt soil – and travel so fast they incinerate birds in flight. We are losing hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat annually – including habitat Congress previously set aside to protect threatened and endangered species. 


Every fire and forest ecologist I know – and I know many of them – reassures me that the wildfires we are witnessing are not natural events and that the only way to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire is to remove as many dead and dying trees from our national forests as we possibly can over the next several decades.


The Craig Thomas’s of the world know how to do this work. It takes skill and a flair for the artistic, but mainly you need to be a careful observer of what’s going on in the woods, which Craig is – as are most of the loggers I know. You can travel around the West and see the results of their good work in hundreds of experimental thinnings the Forest Service has designed over the last 20 years. In fact, you can see nearly 100 years worth of work at the Forest Service’s Fort Valley Experimental Station near Flagstaff, Arizona. So don’t let anyone con you into believing that we don’t know how to thin forests or what they will look like after the world is done.


I’ll wager that neither Congressman Waxman nor Speaker Pelosi have ever been to Fort Valley, much less any forest that has been thinned the way the Craig Thomas’s of the world do it. If they had, they’d know how much thinning can do to help a forest that is teetering on the brink of ecological collapse.


Waxman and Pelosi take their marching orders from hardcore Beltway environmentalists who oppose cleaning up the mess in our forests because they fear it will undermine their political powerbase, so they say that removing the dead and dying trees that are choking the life out of our national forests isn’t “sustainable.” And allowing millions of acres of the public’s forest to die and burn is sustainable? I don’t know a single peer-reviewed report concerning catastrophic wildfire in western forests that supports this idea, not one.


Delusional Beltway environmentalists – many of whom believe in “re-wilding” the Midwest – that’s code for “Get the hell out of here”- aren’t alone in this ridiculous sham. International Paper, one of the world’s largest paper and packaging manufacturers, has an army of lobbyists working House and Senate cloakrooms in hopes of keeping federal biomass out of the legislation. I’ll have more to say about IP’s inexcusably bad behavior in my next column, but for now what you need to know is that IP’s top executives fear that federal biomass will undermine the profitability of its own operations. This is Wall Street greed writ large.


So I leave my friend Craig in a Kansas cornfield –and wish him god-speed on the trip home, whenever that may be. He has written a wonderful little book you might want to read. It’s titled “Regurgitations of a Montana Woodsman,” which you can order on his website It’s filled with wit and wisdom that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. He also writes about his heroes – his wife and a couple of close friends.


What my friend Craig does not know – but will soon learn – is that he is one of my heroes. Most in Congress could learn a great deal from this gentle man who has forgotten more about the West’s great forests than most of them will ever know.

18 May 2009

The last few weeks have been a real trial possibly for you too.  SO I reread one chapter of my book called "Christmas Trees". It made me chuckle as I relived it. Maybe it will make you chuckle too. Enjoy!

Christmas Trees


I bet that every forester has been asked at one time or another, possibly each year, to get a Christmas tree for someone. The request maybe “honey would you get a nice tree” to “the office needs several nice trees”. It’s always a nice tree that is requested.

 First time it happened to me was 1972 early December. Squawfish and I were headed out cruising East of Missoula Montana south of the Bearmouth exit. Ernie, the big boss, had established a cruising policy of if it’s not 20 below zero or colder in town, Missoula, then we WILL cruise. The Anaconda Company had been purchased by US Plywood and eleven of us were inventorying the timberlands, 680,000 acres. This needed to be completed as soon as possible. Mason, Bruce, and Gerard was the company in charge of the cruise, and they expected we would each be able to do ½ of a section each day. That was doubled to a section each by Bob Lamley, another boss. He said our timber was less dense than coastal timber and a section a day was easy. Anyways, Squawfish and I were teamed up to do two sections this day behind a local ranch. The company had access to all the ground, but most areas hadn’t been developed yet, and we stopped to inform the ranch owner of our cruising intentions. We didn’t want to just traipse a crossed his field even if we had right a way. It’s Montana you know and one could get shot!

His response was “You guys are nuts! It’s 42 degrees below zero at my barn.” Really doesn’t matter. We’ve been doing this all along as those are the rules. Most of the time nobody knew how cold it was, but we had developed, actually Shorty Thompson our mechanic did, a modification to the Cornbinder fuel system to deal with the cold. Our Cornbinder pickups came with a stock 10 gallon fuel tank and at 5-7 miles per gallon range was limited. That was OK for the logging crews as they worked pretty close to camp, but this cruising deal was a new thing. We’re way out in the boondocks. Shorty put a 30 gallon barrel in the pickup bed and plumbed it into the regular fuel line. SO all we needed was a couple of extra 5 gallon cans and we were set for the day.

Our method was to get to the cruise site with the regular fuel tank then turn around facing downhill as you didn’t want to get stuck at night just before heading home. Guess how we figured that out! 1972 was a real snow year and by December we had at least a foot of snow everywhere. Now that the pickup is chained up, turned around, and pointed out, we’d switch to the extra 30 gallons of gas and head out to cruise, leaving the Cornbinder running for the day with the heater on high.

This was the coldest we’d ever cruised, at least that we knew, and we were going fast to stay warm. It was really hard to write, and I finally just threw the ink pen away and used a soft lead pencil. Soon I was too cold to write in the little boxes on the data cards and started using ½ a plot card per plot figuring that I’d recopy all this when I returned to the truck. It was a quite day no wind and the snow was fluffy as powder. Beautiful! Walking was easy, and I didn’t have much timber on this cruise line. I finished before Squawfish and headed to the rig planning to go pick him up.


As I approached the Cornbinder, which was still running thank God, I could hear the radio squawking. It was Mary Ann, the boss’s secretary calling Sphagnum, Wayne Maahs our immediate crew boss. We called Wayne “Sphagnum” after the soil conditioner we used in the nursery as it was Moss also. I was Wingnut because I had big ears that stuck straight out. Anyway, Sphagnum was not answering so I did. When will I learn to keep my mouth shut as Mary Ann, a real sweetheart, was on a mission to get Christmas trees for the entire office.  Great! I can hear the office chatter now. Hey, the cruisers are out in all those new areas, let’s see if they’ll grab a few trees for us. Sound’s easy as the office is warm and all. SO here’s this radio call. Nobody I knew could ever say ”NO” to Mary Ann. She is just such a nice person. The original sweetie pie! I resolved to my fate of chief tree collector and begin to think that this won’t be too tough. I’ll get’em while waiting for Squawfish to return. Yeah, No sweat.


Now, I set in this Cornbinder trying to look out the beer bottle size clear area on the windshield as that was all the heater would defrost searching for a few NICE Christmas trees. It was a lot warmer in the pickup probably zero or so, but my breathe still made huge clouds that hung in the air which smelled of gas and exhaust fumes. I forgot to stomp the snow down around the exhaust pipe so the fumes could get away from the truck cab. Sitting in the pickup cab one could exhale and then cut the resulting cloud of breathe mist in half with a swipe of an arm.  Neat!

I dig out the ice scraper we used to clear the windshield so you could see to drive and headed to where Squawfish would finish his cruising this day. I figured I’d find some NICE Christmas trees along the way.


Sure enough, I spy a bushy one just above the road bank and slide to a halt below it. Fishing out the Pulaski, an axe fire tool, from behind the 30 gallon gas barrel, I scramble up the bank to collect this fine tree. Pushing the limbs to the side so I can get a good whack at the tree’s base, the limbs don’t bend they just all break off with a popping sound. That startles me and standing back I see I’ve ruined this perfect tree as it now has this big hole in its perfect shape. I whack it anyways figuring this could be a corner tree and the spoiled side could be placed in the corner of the house and nobody would know the difference. When I whack the tree it mostly explodes! The top breaks out and the trunk busts into several pieces with all the pieces collapsing into a little pile of broken tree parts and fluffy snow. Wow! Bet Mary Ann’s gonna love this. There’s nothing big enough to salvage so I leave the pile of parts and begin looking for another tree. Sure enough here’s another not far away. Whack Puff same result! Nice pile though. This happens several times and I’m beginning to get concerned as an hour of whacking has resulted in two partial trees in the truck bed.

About now Squawfish comes staggering out of the brush with a headache as his glasses have fogged up and he had to take them off so he could see to get back to the truck. He’s in a foul mood. Everytime he takes his glasses off he gets a really bad headache, but what else is there to do. Gotta see to walk! I persuade him to help with the tree collection as he likes Mary Ann also.

We’re not having much luck with the Pulaski. Just more explosions. Squawfish has a little folding saw and with it we collect several nice trees. Dragging them back to the truck all the limbs on one side break off. Those will be wall trees. You can put them right next to the wall and half will stick out into the room for decorating. We figure that will be OK. By carrying some trees we get a few back to the truck whole though. Our Cornbinder looks like a giant porcupine and off we go for the office scraping on the windshield to see where we’re going. We left all our clothes on the keep warm.


For some reason Mary Ann never asked for us to get anymore Christmas trees.

                                    TODAYS THOUGHTS 29 Apr 09


I just got off the phone with a buddy, and as we spoke it became clear to me my chapters on biomass in Regurgitations has omitted some critical considerations.


The first is energy independence as a national security issue. We’re currently the most affluent society meaning we utilize the most energy per capita. Great life style and everybody is trying to catch our condition, but we’re fighting two wars currently over this energy use. The savings of not fighting a war makes biomass look really wise. To Hell with the money what about people’s lives?

By utilizing biomass as outlined in the book we can offset 20% of our use. Think of it—20% of our total fuel consumption. Would we even need to be in Iraq?

This is a peaceable solution that will make us stronger and more responsible for our own uses. Assault weapons are not needed to collect biomass. Neither are smart bombs. All we need is smart leaders. Seen any lately?

The other issue that came to light was the fact that we use the most energy per capita of any other nation. Shouldn’t it be our responsibility to find and utilize a solution within our own borders? On this continent at least?

Image the positive world perception that could result if we were to reduce our foreign oil dependence! If we used our own resources that would at least reduce the perception of the USA being energy pigs.

Every time I mention biomass cost comes up, but almost nobody considers security and world perception costs.


Where are all the oil companies and energy companies anyway? This biomass is an unbelievable deal with the lumber markets on their butt. Sinclair should just buy up pulp mills and convert them to energy facilities. How smart would that be? How green?


Each pound of woody fiber at 50% water content equals 4000 BTU’s. Each Gallon of #2 diesel fuel equals 138,000 BTU’s. One ton of woody biomass equals 58 gallons of diesel fuel.  Convert that!


Trees are the Answer!


"In His wisdom GOD gives to each of us a limited, finite number of hours a year in which to achieve our goals, both material and spiritual. He gives us these hours in sequence, day by day, month by month. If they are wasted, however, they are neither repeatable nor refundable. He gives the same amount to the rich and the poor, to the young and the old. Whatever successes we may achieve in this life will come from the purpose to which we put God's priceless gift-TIME." 
                Leon a. Danco Phd

"It's not the critic who counts...It's not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled....Credit belongs to the man who really was in the arena, his face marred by dust, sweat and blood. who strives valiantly, who errors to come up short and short again, because there is NO effort without error and shortcoming. It is the man who actually strives to do the deeds, who knows the great enthusiasm and great devotion, who spends himself on a worthy cause, who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of great achievement. And who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and cruel souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

                                 Theodore Roosevelt


Suggested reading:

Mimicking Nature's Fire by Arno and Fielder

Check out Charles Kay

Kay-7, Kay-21,Kay-58
Trees Are the Answer!