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An Alternative to Industrial Logging: an Interview with Debbie Wilkie of Ridge Runner Logging and Mill

By Debbie Wilkie

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

We are a husband and wife run operation. Bob has been around logging and sawmills most of his life. I started logging with him as a "greenhorn" back in 2002. At that time, we just sold our logs to local sawmills. We have always been selective loggers, only cutting down the cedars large enough to mill. We had so many people ask about the logs we were hauling, wanting to know where to get Eastern Red Cedar lumber that in 2007 we bought a small sawmill. Nowadays we sell everything from small rails to finished, dimensional lumber. Sometimes we even cut customer's logs they bring to us. Most of the time, we are so busy with the mill that we do not have the time to go logging and have to purchase them instead. The folks who bring us log are also selective loggers, just bringing us the sizes we need at the time. I feel we have come full circle, but sometimes Bob wishes he could get out in the woods more.

What are the main differences between your organization and industrial logging?

We specialize in Eastern Red Cedar so we are not devastating the natural balance of the land like industrial clear cutting, if anything we are helping maintain and improve it. Unless cedars are kept trimmed fairly high off the ground, there is no vegetation that grows under it, cedars drink up a lot of water that other trees and grasses could be utilizing for wildlife. Even though cedar is 98% of what we cut, we do not clear cut it ... this helps assure there will be cedar around for years to come. Also, we do everything by hand ... no monstrous equipment to leave huge ruts and damage other trees around the cutting sight. We go out in the woods with a chainsaw and cut them down. We pick a landing sight in an open field and drag the logs out with our 1 ton and load them on our trailer by hand. The only "mess" left his limbs cut off the logs.

Is there a large cost difference between your service and the industrial suppliers?

There is a considerable difference (I am guessing you are talking about the lumber end of this) ... in a way ... you have to compare an apple to an apple. Industrial suppliers do not offer Eastern Red Cedar and we can not compete with them when it comes to pine and some of the other hardwoods because they deal in such huge quantities. The only way we can beat them in hardwoods is if you want dimensional lumber. All the wood you get from lumber stores started out dimensional, but they plane it to make is smooth so really you lose. (For the logging end ... just in case that is what you were wanting to know) We do not charge for our selective logging services, but as a land owner, you can't be in a big hurry to get all your cedars gone. Right now, we have a list of landowners who want us to come cut on their land with a total of over 40,000 acres. We just call them when we know they have certain trees we need on their land and we cut what we need (again, this leaves very little impact on the land itself). That takes a long time when you are cutting it by hand and selective logging. Industrial loggers will bring in big equipment and get it done FAST ... BUT, you're going to pay a premium and then the logs are unusable if they use a dozer or a tree shear (like big hydraulic scissors) because both of those pieces of equipment breaks the grain the in log.

Besides providing an alternative to industrial lumber, how else is your business changing the way we use and view timber and products created from lumber?

Again, you can not get Eastern Red Cedar from a lumber store (with one exception of a wood craft store in OKC and their prices are absolutely ridiculous for pure junk. This is what I have been told by our customers, have not checked it out firsthand). When you see "Cedar" at a lumber store, you are actually buying Western Cedar from California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, or Canada. When you call us, you are going to get local wood.

What is the easiest way for people to contact you or your business?

You can call Bob at (405) 761-1195, email us at ridgerunnermill@yahoo.com, but be sure and visit our website at ridgerunnermill.com ... there is a lot of photos of projects our customers have made with our lumber. You can also find us on facebook ... search for ridge runner logging and mill or there is a link on our web site that will take you there.

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Phone: (405) 761-1195

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