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Hitachis Bolsters Gustafson With Sustainable Harvesting

A stable crew is essential. The Gustafsons feel fortunate to have a number of long-term employees. Their company and crew were even featured on the History Channel series “The Ax Men.”

A stable crew is essential. The Gustafsons feel fortunate to have a number of long-term employees. Their company and crew were even featured on the History Channel series “The Ax Men.”

Gustafson Logging of Astoria, Ore., cuts timber in northwest Orgeon’s coast range, primarily for commercially owned timberlands.

“We’re a family-owned business,” said Mark Gustafson, co-owner of Gustafson Logging. “We’ve been operating for about 34 years now.”

The company believes in logging in a sustainable, environmentally conscious manner.

“To maximize production on a sustainable, regular basis, you’ve got to keep up the quality of your work. That means not only producing logs, but taking care of the environment — doing all the things that are required, not only by regulation, but by simply being a good steward of the ground so we can prepare the way for future harvests.”

Some of Gustafson’s customers only buy from environmentally conscious companies.

“We’re working on private ground, so there are stipulations the timber companies must follow as they try to be as ‘green’ or as sustainable as possible. They have all become Sustainable Forest Initiative [SFI] certified. Places like The Home Depot will buy lumber only from timber companies that are SFI certified. In other words, they’re not overcutting their stock, and they’re not razing the land in any cut-and-run manner. They’re in it for the long haul.

“Consequently, loggers on the property must work within the constraints of that certification. We have to be certified as professional loggers. To do that, we must take a certain amount of classroom instruction on an annual basis through seminars and meetings put on by either the State Department of Forestry or the Association of Oregon Loggers.


It’s just like keeping your teachers’ certification current. You have to keep up to date with new changes and regulations ranging from road construction [to] harvest practices. In other words, today’s timber companies aren’t going to hire somebody who’s not good at what they do. And a logging company’s not going to stay in business unless they’re good at what the timber companies want done on their property — so they can stay in compliance … and therefore be able to sell their lumber.”

To be as productive as possible, Gustafson Logging has been relying on Hitachi forestry equipment for the past 10 years.

“Ten years ago we decided that there were certain pieces of equipment that you could run for an extended amount of time,” Gustafson explained. “Our yarders, for example, are a long-term investment. Log loaders and stroke delimbers are critical as they need to be running all the time. If they stop, the meter keeps ticking as long as the crew is on the job. And if they stop, production stops. So, we trade every 7,000 hours. Interestingly, our productivity has increased 15 percent and our maintenance costs have decreased 40 percent, so the practice has dramatically improved our bottom line. You hear about others who might boast of having 20,000 hours on a log loader, but with our common radio setup, you hear talk about breaking down.”

“Years ago,” said Clay Gustafson, Mark’s brother and co-owner, “we got introduced by Link-Belt to the Isuzu engine. Then, we moved to the Deere 2554 log loader. We were and still are quite impressed with that loader built by DHSP. But, we missed the Isuzu engine. We think it has the best fuel economy and lowest maintenance costs. Moving on to the Hitachi provided the best of all worlds. It’s a DHSP product with an Isuzu engine.”

The company also likes working with the DHSP product line because of its dealer, Papé Machinery of Portland, Ore.

“The financing options available through them and John Deere Credit are excellent,” Clay Gustafson said. “It’s a strong dealership with great product support. They don’t walk on water, but they are excellent.”

The company is especially happy with its Hitachi 290-3 log loader.

“It’s fast [and] very efficient. The operator has been singing its praises since day one,” Clay Gustafson said.

This story was reprinted from Hitachi Breakout magazine, first issue 2009.