Historically, construction machinery hasn’t been closely associated with preserving natural habitats and working around nesting or protected species.
However, Mark Girard, president of Habitat Restoration Sciences Inc., found Caterpillar compact construction equipment to increase productivity without being detrimental to the natural surroundings. His company specializes in native habitat restoration including re-vegetation planning and installation, restoration of salt and fresh water marshes, and long-term land management projects. Located in Escondido, Calif., Habitat Restoration Sciences is a wholly-owned subsidiary of DUDEK, an environmental engineering firm, and a long-time customer of Hawthorne Machinery and Hawthorne Rent-It Service.
One of the many benefits Caterpillar compact construction equipment offers is the ability to fit in areas where larger machines cannot, thereby not disturbing the delicate habitat. Girard owns Cat 287C and 277B multi terrain loaders, a 303CR mini hydraulic excavator and a 242B skid steer loader. Operator Kevin Morrison has worked with Mark on and off for years.
Previously the operator of a competing brand, Morrison now is hooked on Caterpillar. He said the multi terrain loader is more stable and comfortable than similar products, calling it the “Cadillac” of machines.
A Hawthorne customer for approximately 16 years, Girard has significantly reduced labor costs due to Cat machines and multiple attachments. Work that once required 20 people can now be done by one operator. This cost-cutting has helped him secure government contracts. He owns several work tools to perform various tasks: brushcutter, trencher, mulcher, pallet fork, forklift, auger, smooth and tooth buckets, rippers, rake, and grapple. He even bought his Toro Dingo from Hawthorne. But when he needs to rent additional machinery, such as the Cat 950 wheel loader and 312, 315, or 320 excavators, he does so from Hawthorne Rent-It Service.
Hawthorne services Girard’s machinery. Girard said that Caterpillar engineering is at a higher level than the competition and he likes that high-wear parts are replaceable.
Unlike many construction companies, Girard’s busy season is in the rainy and winter months. Hawthorne personnel have delivered in the rain and in the middle of the night, welded in inclement weather, and kept his business operating to finish before the endangered Clapper Rail returned to breed.
Matt Higgins, the compact construction equipment specialist that supports Habitat Restoration Sciences, has a mechanical background and has previously worked as a Hawthorne service writer. Girard commented that “Matt knows what our needs are and I really view him as an extension of our equipment business. I talk to Matt often and will learn more about the machine. I have called him in crisis mode and he always calls back.”
Girard and Morrison appreciate the convenience of the Cat AccessAccount. Anywhere the job is, they can buy tools, get service and avoid downtime and time-consuming paperwork. While working in another county, Morrison was able to get emergency service locally, avoiding a trip back to San Diego.
Girard said owning Caterpillar equipment allows him to accomplish jobs that his competitors cannot. Besides the labor savings, Cat machines can tackle steep slopes. Habitat Restoration Sciences was awarded the bid for a $1.7 million Orange County Slough restoration project. Girard said, “Everyone else was going to remove non-native plants from steep slopes by hand. I showed them a video clip of one of our multi terrain loaders with a brushcutter slicing through 9-foot-high non-native plants and leaving usable mulch behind. They were sold right then and there.”
Most other machines would not be able to get around the eucalyptus groves, or other foliage, where he uses his Cat multi terrain loader, which often tows a chipper or herbicide tank. Material can be separated with a grapple, about 96 percent of which is recycled. The lower decibel levels on Cat equipment allow work in sound-sensitive wildlife breeding areas. Due to the excellent weight distribution, and a low 3.9 PSI, the multi-terrain loader can pass over plants without damaging them.
The company’s projects include: the restoration of San Diego’s historic Famosa Slough; the city of Carlsbad public golf course, conserving 80 acres (32.4 ha) of wetland and coastal sage scrub habitat; the San Marcos Elementary School No. 2, a 14-acre (5.6 ha) site with 7 acres (2.8 ha) set aside for block salvage; and wetland creation projects in Rose Canyon, city of San Diego.
Although Girard is normally slow in the summer months, our interview took place recently on a residential property that is being converted to support drought resistant, native plants. An irrigation system will be put in and it will maintain the plants for about 2 years. After that, the plants will maintain themselves. The property also will boast a private motocross track.
Girard’s next purchase from Hawthorne Machinery will probably be a 257C-Series multi-terrain loader. He stated that Caterpillar offers a better product, more branches and the convenience of the Cat network. With increased awareness to protect the environment, and to conserve water, it is clear that Habitat Restoration Sciences and Hawthorne will be working together for many years to come.
Hawthorne Machinery Co. is the authorized dealer of Caterpillar equipment for San Diego County, Calif., and is the oldest and largest division of the Hawthorne family of companies. Serving the construction and industrial markets, Hawthorne sells and rents construction and power equipment. Besides San Diego, there are locations in the Hawaiian Islands, Pacific Rim and Northern Baja California.
For more information, visit www.hawthornecat.com.