Reader Profile: Forest Wehr

Feb. 25, 2015

King Mountain Forestry and Fence in Deer Lodge, MT is a logging company that has evolved into a variety of services to meet the region’s needs under the direction of its owner Forest Wehr and his brother Willow. “Here in Montana, throughout the Rocky Mountain states and up into Canada, a mountain pine beetle epidemic has been taking out all of the pine trees,” Wehr notes. “One of our most common jobs is helping property owners deal with that. There is a high fire risk in those areas because there are so many dead trees.” There’s the occasional uncommon job, such as having to thin out undergrowth and dead timber on an old 2,500-acre National Guard munitions site so they could get their equipment in and do a subsurface sweep of the terrain looking for old spent munitions. “We had the logging equipment to remove bigger trees, but we needed smaller equipment to mulch the thick undergrowth,” says Wehr. He derived significant production combining two Terex PT110 Forestry Compact Track Loaders and two Advanced Forest Equipment ECO Series mulchers. He also uses an older ASV RC100 forestry mulcher. Other jobs King Mountain Forestry does include pre-commercial thinning and fire hazard reductions for private landowners.

What He Does Day to Day
Wehr and his six employees may have several job sites going simultaneously. Wehr takes on the administrative work, including looking for more work, and handles the logging responsibilities, running a Timberjack 608 feller buncher. He also helps Willow on mulching jobs.

What Led Him to This Line of Work
At age 13, Wehr helped his father cut posts and poles for the family business. “When I was that age, I was more into being a cowboy,” he says. He rode broncos and bulls in rodeos, but after getting busted up, he figured he had the passion, but not the skill. He tried his hand at other jobs, including being a diesel mechanic. Eventually, Wehr returned to forestry work. “I still work on machines plenty, but I decided I’d rather run them,” he says. “I got back into logging. Now that I’ve got my own equipment, I’m enjoying it more than I ever have.”

What He Likes Most About His Work
Wehr likes working in remote sites. “There’s a little bit of a pioneer feeling being out in the wild,” he says. “It’s not for everybody, but it suits me.” Wehr also derives satisfaction in helping out with the pine beetle epidemic. “A lot of fullgrown stands are way too thick and there are a lot of trees falling down,” he says. “They look pretty nasty. We do a lot of thinning.” Wehr eschews the image of loggers as “making a mess and cutting down all of the trees and being a detriment to nature,” he says. “Many times, the opposite is true. We’re doing a lot of good for the stands of trees and helping improve the landscape. Once we’re done thinning, 99% of the landowners are ecstatic over how much better it looks.”

His Greatest Challenge
Working remotely can be a challenge if machinery breaks down or someone gets injured (Wehr’s company has a good safety record, but he’s always cognizant of the dangers). Finding more timber in an area surrounded by dead trees is another challenge. Some 70% of the timbered land is owned by the US Forest Service, but less than 20% of the timber supply to the sawmills is from Forest Service land, Wehr says. “It’s competitive finding more work,” he says. “A lot of the private land where they want us to do work is either not very good wood or it’s really steep ground.” That presents extra challenges for him and his crew. Work sites have rough, ragged, and steep draws and there are boulder-type rocky outcroppings. Some equipment can’t handle the terrain. “We bought these unique little machines called Shars and they have two sets of tracks-one in the front and one in the rear- and they articulate in the middle like skidders. One has a backhoe broom on it and can reach out. We’ve been tackling some of the nastier mulching with those,” notes Wehr.