Zane Peterson: Logging Entrepreneur

 

Through his involvement in extracurricular events provided by his local California Farm Bureau chapter, Zane Peterson was able to be a part of logging industry conversations that provided him with the opportunity for legislative involvement that would shape his future career. A young forester, Zane’s parents were involved in the California timber industry via the operation of saw mills and power plants. While an industry that he had always been involved in, Zane is paving his own way in the timber industry today! 

 

Legislative Change-Up

Despite growing up with his parents involvement in the timber industry, Zane utilized resources at his community college to continue to network with loggers in the area. In his conversations with them he realized there was a big opportunity within the industry that many of the veteran loggers were not capitalizing on. 

“Right when I started off on my own, California Assembly Bill 901 happened which provided power purchase agreements to the power plants in California,” explains Zane. These contracts gave a five-year agreement with the power plants that were lucrative, but had definite strings attached. 

Being involved in the Farm Bureau, Zane was aware of what the bill was and how it worked. Working with the bills representative’s directly, he knew when it was coming down the pipeline and used it to his advantage. The bill directed that no green waste fuel could be taken out of urban areas, but from Tier 1 or Tier 2 high hazard zones that were mapped out by the state of California. 

 

Creating Opportunity 

Most loggers want trees that are 10” in diameter and up while Zane is dealing with trees that are 10” in diameter and down. Chipping is the stuff that “no one wants to do” because it’s harder, costs more, and is less efficient. Zane has used his resources and education to make chipping efficient and, as a result, has very few competitors. Asking the veteran’s what they would have done differently and blending those responses with the opportunity in front of him, he was able to set himself for success. 

Hiring skilled labor has been one of the biggest challenges for Zane, whose goal is to not pirate employees from fellow loggers. Zane’s team uses the most efficient and most comfortable equipment, which, as a result, allows him to hire the best of the best in the industry. 

“A lot of people think of entrepreneurs that throw risk to the wind but you have to have very calculated risk,” says Zane, who believes that being calculated in everything that you do is a great advantage. 

 

Chipping for Power Plants

With a large issue in the northwest for the past several years regarding forest management, when the Tier 1 and Tier 2 mapping came out it focused heavily on tree mortality by bugs. It began to morph, however, after large forest fires in the past years destroyed entire communities. 

Where is the danger here? 

If a fire starts – what will affect it? 

Where are our best efforts needed to manage forests?

Tree mortality is high on federal land as it’s typically not managed to the extent that it should be. By being mapped into zones, it gives more opportunities for that timber to leave and the forest to be managed. 

If it’s a product-supported job, that would be the log that goes to the sawmill and chips to the power plants which makes a streamlined process. Permits can usually be acquired within two to three weeks by working with CalFire, the California Department of Forestry, biologists and foresters to make sure there are no unstable areas. 

If the location is 100 miles from a power plant, Zane then has to put in for a grant. That process includes mapping out the area they think will have the best benefit to the community, forest and wildlife such as sections near roads and towns. 

 

Training The Next Generation

In order to not steal top caliber laborers from his friends in the industry, Zane is involved with Shasta College where, upon graduation, he went back to develop a school specifically for heavy equipment operators. From hands on training experience with field trips to his operation, students get a hands on opportunity to learn more about operating the heavy equipment required in logging. 

“We have a lot of awesome employees now that wouldn’t have if that program hadn’t been available,” says Zane. 

Zane firmly believes that community colleges are underrated as they provide useful, practical and career-focused courses and opportunities. 

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Tim Hammerich
tim@aggrad.com

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.