Customers in Action

Iron Triangle


July 06, 2015

Productive and reliable Komatsu Forest machines

Iron Triangle

Loggers and environmentalists are often at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to tree harvesting. An innovative, 10-year forestrystewardship contract is now in place in eastern Oregon, and many hope it can serve as a model of how both sides can work together for the common good.

The partnership got its start several years ago, when the last remaining mill in Grant County, Ore., announced it was closing due to a lack of logs. Private timber is scarce in eastern Oregon, and logging in the Malheur National Forest had substantially decreased due to lawsuits from environmental groups. The blow to the local economy from the mill closing, in particular to the town of John Day, would have been severe. That reality brought all affected parties to the table to try to find common ground that would benefit everyone.

The result was a “stewardship contract” to promote ecological restoration; reduce the risk of wildfire; and improve economic vitality in the region. It increases allowable logging in the Malheur Forest by more than 50 million board feet of timber annually to a total of 75 million feet. The 10-year contract, signed in September 2013, was awarded to the longtime logging firm from John Day, Iron Triangle.

“The 10-year stewardship contract is an accelerated forest-restoration project,” said Iron Triangle Owner and President Russ Young. “Because of disease and drought, the Malheur Forest was unhealthy and a severe fire hazard. The stewardship contract allows us as loggers to go onto the land to clean it up and sell the harvest – much of it to our local mill. It’s basically a thinning program that also takes into account the economic impact of logging, and in doing so, benefits all interested parties.

“Loggers and environmentalists don’t see eye-to-eye very often, but that doesn’t mean that one side is always right and the other is always wrong,” he noted. “The key is to find a middle ground. That’s what happened with this program. It’s a compromise that will save the forest while benefitting our logging industry and the local economy.”

Iron Triangle was founded by Russ’s dad, Jack Young, in 1982. The name is from the three nearby forests – Malheur, Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla. When Jack decided to sell in 1997, Russ bought the road building division. Within a few years, he had the logging and trucking sides as well. Today, Iron Triangle employs about 100 people.

“Prior to the stewardship contract, we were going to be a smaller company, possibly as few as 20 to 30 people,” Young noted. “I’m really happy we were able to keep our employees, and even add some, because they are the backbone of Iron Triangle and the reason for our success. I’d put them up against any other company’s people – anytime and anyplace.”

Iron Triangle is a full-facet logging operation. It uses a wide range of logging methods – from cutto- length to whole tree to hand-falling.

“We do whatever makes the most sense for the particular customer and the wood supply,” said Young. “We also use several contract loggers. One of the goals of the 10-year stewardship contract was a ‘community economic benefit.’ Other loggers are definitely part of this community, and they’ve done a lot to help us meet our obligations.”

Komatsu Forest equipment

Having a 10-year contract that calls for many times more board feet to be harvested each year has required a significant equipment upgrade for Iron Triangle. The company has turned largely to Komatsu and Komatsu Forest equipment from Modern Machinery in Boise.

“I grew up with the Valmet/Timbco product, which today is Komatsu Forest,” said Young. “I firmly believe they are the best machines out there. They are productive and reliable, and our operators are very familiar with Komatsu Forest machines. They can maintain them and even do some minor repairs. Additionally, as it relates to our 10-year stewardship contract, Komatsu Forest equipment is ground-sensitive. We care about the environment too, and this equipment helps us protect it.”

Iron Triangle’s equipment fleet includes numerous Komatsu XT430 feller bunchers; four forwarders, including one of the world’s first Komatsu 895s, a well as a new 22-ton machine that’s the largest forwarder Komatsu Forest makes; and about a dozen processors. The company also recently purchased two new Komatsu excavators (a PC290LC-11 and a PC240LC-11) and a Komatsu D37 dozer from Modern Machinery and Sales Rep Jared Johnson.

“We’ve been very pleased with the support we’ve gotten from Modern Machinery,” said Young. “The staff is great, and Jared goes out of his way to make sure we get what we need. We were also very impressed that, in addition to Modern, Komatsu Forest and Komatsu Financial flew in their people to meet with us in order to understand what this 10-year contract is all about. It’s a really big deal for us. The way Komatsu responded demonstrated that it’s a big deal to them too.”

“Congratulations to Iron Triangle for its involvement in this important program,” said Modern Machinery President Brian Sheridan.

“All of us at Modern are pleased to have the opportunity to support Russ and his team with equipment, parts and service.”

Serving as a model

With numerous groups represented, there’s a lot of oversight on the 10-year stewardship program. An early study from Oregon and Oregon State universities shows the project has generated $2.16 million in economic activity and has supported 101 private-sector jobs in the John Day area.

“The intent is for this program to be a model to show what works and what doesn’t, so it can be adapted to other regions,” said Young. “Each forest region is different and has its own set of issues, but what we learn here should help others find what will work best in their particular situations. At Iron Triangle, we’re very pleased to be a part of something that we all hope will produce far-reaching benefits for our industry, our local economies and our forests.”