WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published December 16, 2009, 10:10 PM

Cold Temps Boost Minnesota Logging

Loggers in northwest Minnesota are catching up thanks to a recent hard freeze.

By: Joel Porter, WDAZ

Most people dread the sub-zero mornings in the middle of winter.

But for loggers in northwest Minnesota, it's the busiest time of the year.

On a typical December morning, by the time many people are trying to get their cars to turn over, Kelly Cole and his family have already put in several hours in the forest cutting and stacking wood since before the sun came up.

On a small tract of land in the Beltrami Island State Forest, the sound of heavy machinery breaks the silence. The recent cold snap has hardened up the forest ground enough for area loggers to start cutting.

"It's got to be froze, if it ain't, they won't even let us in," Warroad logger Kelly Cole said.

"Break of dawn, we're out here, get the machines running and make a good day of it," Cole's brother Matt said.

Kelly Cole and his team of seven workers are forging through in the cold temps. Kelly says it's when they work best. His dad Mark runs a machine called a buncher which takes down the trees, and his brother Mark runs the limber, that strips the logs like a peeled carrot.

"It's a great machine, it sure beats the chainsaw," Matt said.

On a sub-zero day, which the Coles call ideal, their only major obstacle is equipment failure...a far cry from when Mark started the business in the 60s using chainsaws and axes.

"Chainsaw, you're lucky to get out a few loads a day, where now we can do anywhere from 10 to 25 loads a day," Kelly said.

The demand for timber is down this year with the slumping housing market, but Cole says he has plenty of permits and loads going out to keep them busy.

"Right now, the loggers need every break they can get," the DNR Forestry Program's Adam Munstenteiger said.

"We've had our ups and downs for a number of years, we have good years and bad ones, it's always been like that, it's feast or famine I guess you'd say," Kelly's dad Mark said.

DNR program forester Adam Mustenteiger says the department's last permit auction held last week was successful, but they need area loggers to have a good year.

"For us to manage the forest, we're dependent on having loggers that are able to make a living and that means they need markets, and if we don't have loggers, we can't manage the woods," Munstenteiger said.

Cole says they normally work until the temperature drops under 30 below zero.

He says much of the timber they cut goes to the paper mill in International Falls and some goes to Bemidji.