Cadreact Logging, located in Haverhill, New Hampshire, typically employs a five to six person crew. In 2015, they moved about 5,100 tons of firewood, 6,800 tons of sawlogs, 8,500 tons of pulpwood, and a whopping 13,600 tons of wood chips. Put another way, 80 percent of their output – more than 27,000 tons of material – was low-quality wood.
This year, their numbers will be down significantly. New Hampshire is seeing a sudden contraction of its low-grade wood market after Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a state senate bill, passed with bipartisan support, which would have required utilities to purchase power from biomass plants at a discounted rate. Some biomass plants have shut down, other have imposed quota systems on their suppliers. On September 13, the state legislature will meet to decide whether to overturn the governor’s veto.
However one views this particular legislation, what’s clear is that across the Northeast, the continued diminishment of low-grade wood markets has stressed the supply chain that loggers and others in the forest products industry rely on for their living, and landowners rely on for their long-term management goals – not just stand improvement, but other ambitions that involve cutting trees, such as improving wildlife habitat, battling invasives, or simply paying taxes. Within that context, we asked Matt Cadreact to talk a little bit about his own work, and his outlook for his industry. Here are some excerpts.
Q: How many family members are involved in the business?
A: Over the last 30 years we’ve had four brothers, one nephew, and three sons work with us. Currently, one son (John) is working.
Q. You’re fully mechanized, correct?
A: We decided to go fully mechanized in 1993 after I suffered a logging injury that fractured my skull and neck. After the accident, it was decided that if I were to continue down this career path safety would be a top priority. Fully mechanized whole tree harvesting is as safe as it gets.
Q: What kind of equipment are you using?
A: Feller-buncher, grapple skidder, chipper, loader-slasher, two cable skidders, excavator, two semi tractors with trailers.
Q: What makes for a good logger/forester relationship?
A: Clear communication.
Q: What do you enjoy most about the work?
I enjoy working out in the forest. I like most of the challenges that come with the trade; every job has a different set of challenges. I really enjoy the landowners, foresters, procurement personnel, and employees I work with. The common thread that brings us together is the forest, and with the tools and knowledge we have today, together we are able to manage our forest in a sustainable manner.
Q: What creates your biggest headaches?
A: A broken hydraulic hose, middle of January, -30 below.
Q: Earlier this summer Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed Senate Bill 365, which required utilities to buy more biomass energy at a discounted rate. Has this veto affected your business, and if so, how?
A: Shortly after the veto, three independent wood fired power producers stopped taking deliveries of wood chips. Two of these plants we shipped wood chips to. One of the plants, Bridgewater Power, is within five miles of where we are working. If this market were still available it would be a lot better trucking the five miles instead of the sixty miles that we need to go now. Because of low demand for wood chips, the running plants are full and on quota. Because of the quota and the uncertain future of this market, we are working with a three man crew instead of five or six. Our productivity is two thirds what it should be.
Q: Between the paper companies consolidating, and the struggles at the biomass plants, it seems like a tough time to be in the low-grade wood business. Where’s this all going?
A: It is a tough time. So much of our forest is of lower grade wood. Sometimes a timber harvest is like taking care of a vegetable garden; you pull the weeds (pulpwood and chips) to enhance the growth of the vegetables (sawlogs). Without a market, it will be pretty hard to tend the garden.