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Working the Allegheny Forest

One company faces the challenge of working in one of the most restricted and regulated areas of wide open forest in America.

Tue May 21, 2013 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Northwest Pennsylvania

Dyne Excavating works in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest in Kane, Pa. Kane is where owner Steve Dyne grew up, graduated from high school, and went to work doing construction work in the surrounding forest. And it’s the forest where Dyne has hunted and explored since he was a grade schooler.

But the Allegheny National Forest is unique and much different from the national forests and parks of the West, full of well-preserved virgin timber and untouched rivers.

It was in the Allegheny National Forest region where the first successful oil well — the Drake Well — was executed in 1859. It was in the Allegheny National Forest where some of the best timber was harvested back in the day for the growing lumber needs of the East Coast. And it was in the Allegheny National Forest where burgeoning paper mills flourished along the rivers flowing all over the Allegheny region.

By the 1920s, the forest was essentially gone. As a result, the area around Kane became one of the first recipients of federal funds dedicated to the development of U.S. Government-managed national forests — creating the Allegheny National Forest in 1923.

But there was only enough federal money to buy the surface area of the forest, not the mineral rights. Since the forest essentially surrounds or borders the thriving oil industry that followed the Drake #1, 93 percent of all mineral rights under the 801 sq. mi. (2,074 sq km) forest are still owned and actively worked by private citizens. As a result, this quasi-federally owned national forest continues to be actively worked by both the timber companies (second growth since 1940) and petroleum companies (continuously since 1859).

Amazingly, for the past 70 years, the wood-pulp mills, the maple-veneer furniture makers, and the mineral owners of the area’s prime Pennsylvania crude oil have worked out a productive relationship with the U.S. Forest Service. Companies have prospered, and the forest has not only regained outstanding health after the heartbreak of the ’20s, but is strong and self-sustaining.

Hello! Today’s Regulations

“We’re working in probably one of the most restricted and regulated areas of wide-open forest there ever could be,” said Dyne. “I know that other companies in urban areas probably have much more to deal with than me, but still, it’s amazing.”

Dyne Excavating has founded a business around building and reworking timber and petroleum projects throughout the Allegheny National Forest.

“We build the roads, drill pads, disposal pits, and final landing pads for the petroleum pump jacks or natural-gas gathering stations. And we do pretty much the same thing for the timber industry.

“I grew up here, and I’m proud of what we’re doing in the Allegheny National Forest. I’m proud this forest is paying its way and more. I understand the history here, and I’m glad the government is managing this forest in a way that not only provides prudent timber harvesting and continued oil, but now also natural-gas development. I do get a bit overwhelmed sometimes with the volume of new regulations. And I get frustrated with how general regulations get interpreted into detailed requirements that are almost impossible to fulfill.”

That’s where Steve’s wife, Kerri, comes in.

“Even though we’re small, working in the National Forest sets us up for meeting the most stringent regulations of performance and protection of the environment,” explained Kerri. “I’ve learned how to respond to the most comprehensive questionnaires possible! But we carry on, and it works.”

Enter Hitachi Excavators

“I started with a backhoe and a dump truck,” said Dyne. “It was easy to go with the flow of buying a used yellow excavator from the nearest dealer. After a few years of running my first excavator, Pat Maurer, our Rudd Equipment salesman, stopped by and offered a demo of their newest Hitachi series excavator. I said ’Okay, but if I keep it very long, it will only be as a rental.’ I wanted to be honest.”

But right away, it was clear the machine wasn’t going back.

“The guys running the Hitachi were pretty excited. They said it worked better and smoother. So, I worked it myself. And I was impressed. I bought the EX160 I had rented and an EX200. That was 12 years ago. Since then, I’ve never thought about any other brand.

“I really like what Rudd and my salesman Pat have brought to the table. It’s not that we haven’t had issues with the Hitachi excavators — we have. But I think there are issues with all equipment; I don’t believe anybody builds a perfect machine. The important question is, do the dealer you’ve built a relationship with and the particular manufacturer have a strong attitude toward dealing with the issues that come up? Thankfully, Rudd and Hitachi do. So although we’re small, we’ve bought a total of 13 Hitachi excavators to complement our dozers, wheel loaders, and over-the-road truck fleet as the sales package we offer our customers.”

ZX160: A No-Permit Machine

“We’re part construction, part re-work to best serve our customers,” explained Dyne. “So it’s important that much of our fleet is easily transportable without the need for permits. The Hitachi ZX160 has been an excellent machine for us because it is within the legal limits of being towed without a permit, and it delivers outstanding productivity.”

Dyne Excavating finds the ZX160 combined with one of their dump trucks is a perfect package for many of their jobs, with their bulldozers and ZX200s put on larger jobs where they may work for more than a few weeks.

This story was reprinted with permission from Breakout Magazine, First Issue of 2013.

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