West Virginia’s timber industry has drastically changed since the time when loggers used handsaws, mules and steam engines. Today’s logging crews still use traditional tools, but technology is making the industry more efficient. West Virginia has 7 million more acres of forested land than it did in 1910 according to the West Virginia Forestry Association and forestry contributes $3.2 billion annually to West Virginia’s economy.
Randy Wade started his logging company in 1989. “I started with $15,000, a single axle truck, an old skidder and a loader. I did everything myself the first year,” said Wade. Wade hired employees the second year and now runs a fully mechanized logging outfit. He says the key to making his operation more efficient is his TimberPro Feller Buncher.
A feller buncher is a mobile machine that grabs the tree, saws it and then “bunches” the trees in a pile. He says the machine has quadrupled his harvest time and that mechanized logging is safer. “Everybody is in an enclosed cab. They’re not exposed to any of the dangers that you would be if you were felling with a chainsaw,” said Wade.
“We’re seeing a lot more efficiency in the timber industry. More utilization. Products that were typically left in the woods before are being utilized in everything from paper to different manufactured materials for building and furniture making,” said John Ward with Advantage Timberland Inc.
In the past, operating a feller buncher in the mountains has been difficult due to steep terrain, but that is changing. Some machines adjust to the terrain. “This mechanism right here, you can see these two hydraulic cylinders and then this pivoting mechanism allow to basically keep this upper part close to level, while the tracks can move either way depending on the terrain,” said Ward.