The Anderson Timber Harvesting Company, run by founder Mitch Anderson, clear-cut over 209 acres of the Montague Plains while leaving a select number of trees to reseed the land. According to Habitat Biologist Brian Holt Hawthorne of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, they want it to return that land to what it was before it was cleared by early farmers. Additionally, the state is hoping to clear another section of property that belongs to the Burek family of Montague, an area that is landlocked by state-owned land. The Burek land is composed of several lots.
Anderson’s bid won the company the privilege of clearing the 209 acres of timber even though the second highest bidder’s offer came in much lower, at $10,000. The reason for that was because Anderson’s bid for the removal of timber also included the removal of much of the underbrush, as well. Biologist Hawthorne hopes to restore the area to an understory of tree oaks, scrub oak and pitch pine trees by leaving a select scattering of existing trees to re-seed the area. The purpose of the near clear cutting is to encourage a return of a larger population of wildlife, though locals say there are plenty of big bucks and does already there.
“The Andersons do a great job,” Biologist Hawthorne said. “We’re going to have a firm come in with a flail brush mower to clean away the underbrush, but the Andersons clear most of the brush with their feller-buncher and chip it with their chipper. Their contract specifies that they remove everything down to four inches in diameter, but they removed a lot of the smaller brush, too. They do a fine job, and leave tree stumps just three or four inches high. We like them. They have a fine reputation, and do a lot of work on Fisheries and Wildlife land.”
What it takes to get the job done
Mitch Anderson, owner of Anderson Timber Harvesting, started logging in the mid-seventies with his brother Scott. In the beginning, they used chain saws and a John Deere 440 skidder. It was a lot of hard work.
Scott left for other employment but Mitch stayed with it and his sons, Nate and Kyle joined the business later. As the business grew, the company added six employees. Over time, Anderson’s operation gradually became more mechanized with log loaders, a whole tree chipper, cut-off saw, skidders and a fleet of tractor-trailer trucks.
Today, Anderson’s truck fleet includes four Western Star tractors, two Mack tractors, a Volvo tractor and a Ford tractor. They have two log transport trailers, and six box chip trailers. In addition, they have two Dodge maintenance trucks and a Mack Petroleum tanker.
Their feller-buncher is a CAT track machine with a 360-degree swing. With that unit, an operator can sweep back and forth mowing down the brush. The business end of the feller-buncher has a heavy duty horizontal circular saw with 2-1/2 X 2-1/2 inch square, cupped teeth that cut the brush and trees at the stump as it grips the tree with arms that hold the tree upright during cutting. From the cut, the machine transports the tree to a bunch pile where the trees are stacked horizontally.
A grapple-equipped Cat 545C skidder, operated by Kevin Bailey, drags the bunched trees to the processing site where Nate Anderson, or his father Mitch, use a 559 Cat log handler equipped with a grapple, to smoothly sort, then saw the timber into logs. Unwanted material is fed into the Morbark whole tree chipper. Nate and his father cannot keep the entire processing operation going simultaneously, however all machines are required for smooth operation. Just one machine out of operation will bring the entire job to a halt.
“That’s why our equipment is new or less than two years old,” Mitch said. “Breakdowns always seemed to happen during miserable weather, and that’s why we worked our way up to owning late model equipment. We couldn’t do it when we first started out, but we found markets for the material that paid well, and we discovered it was a whole lot easier and a lot more profitable harvesting logs than repairing equipment.”
While logging is a very dangerous occupation, the feller-buncher is designed to limit the danger of a tree falling on a chainsaw operator or “beaning” him with a falling “widow-maker” limb. The machine operator sits securely inside a heavy-duty metal cab protected in front by a heavy-duty metal grill covering bulletproof glass. That allows him to view his work while shielding him from debris, a loose saw tooth or shattered rocks thrown by the saw. The hydraulic, high-speed motor-driven saw blade spins parallel to the ground at high rpm. The inertia generated by the heavy cutter blade enables it to “zing” through a tree trunk in seconds without slowing down.
Daily, two to four trailer truckloads of harvested logs go to various sawmills, mostly in New Hampshire while approximately eight, 35-ton loads of wood chips are harvested and trucked out as well. Nothing is wasted. Pitch pine is used for flooring and beams. White pine logs are processed into boards and trim material. Oak timber is used for the manufacture of flooring and for use as cordwood, with the rest being converted to wood chips that are destined to biomass burning power plants and to wood pellet manufacturers.
The Andersons, all college educated, would rather work smarter than harder. Accordingly, they keep their stable of well-maintained late model equipment in top condition by setting aside Saturdays for greasing and maintaining their trucks and equipment. “You don’t make any money with equipment break-downs,” Anderson said. “Keeping the equipment well-maintained offsets the cost of new equipment. Everyone likes running good equipment and we want to keep everyone safe, happy and productive, working together.”