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Site Preparation with the Track Beast Recycler

Bandit model 2680XP Track Beast Recycler

Bandit Model 2680XP Track Beast Recycler

May 2014, Ron Hague, Operations Manager –

As the name implies, site preparation prepares the site for tree planting. The preferred method of site preparation after harvest is piling the limbs and tops with a dozer using a brush rake, then burning and sub-soil ripping.

The pile and burn clears the site, while the sub-soiling or ripping loosens the ground to reduce surface soil erosion, retains moisture on the site, and allows for better root penetration of the seedlings.

Because of recent increased liability potential from escaped fires and smoke management issues, we’ve had to explore alternatives to the long-established practice of burning brush and logging slash.

One alternative to burning is chipping or grinding the slash on site and either marketing the treated material or leaving it onsite to decompose.

We recently tested a new Bandit Model 2680XP Track Beast Recycler, and will soon be adding one like it to our operations.  The Bandit will treat most of the logging slash that we formerly piled and burned.  This machine has a 540 horsepower Caterpillar engine that powers a horizontal drum of hammers. The rotating hammers grind logging slash through a screen, and the chipped material discharges off of a conveyor belt.

The chipped material could potentially be marketed for such products as biomass for cogeneration power or landscaping

The chipped material can potentially be marketed for such products as biomass for cogeneration power, landscaping, or garden mulch.

These markets are uncertain right now, and until the markets develop, the chipped product will be spread onsite, thereby treating the slash fire hazard required by the California Forest Practice Rules.

The Bandit is self-propelled and remote-controlled. It features a tracked caterpillar Model 320L undercarriage, so it is versatile enough to be set up in harvested areas.

The machine can be fed by an excavator, heel boom loader, or a  front end loader, and is remotely controlled by the operator of the loading machine.

This method of treatment was chosen to offset the increasing liability surrounding burning logging slash, where conflicting regulations between multiple agencies, changing and non-uniform policies of regional air quality boards, smoke management issues, and potential escapes have increasingly resulted in violations and fines.

I feel very confident that we can treat all of our processor piles of unmerchantable tops and limbs; most of this material is 8” in diameter and smaller.  The 2680XP will also handle all of the larger submerchantable material including hardwood, which is generated in our harvest units.

This machine is fed by an excavator, heel boom loader or front end loader and controlled remotely by the operator of the loading machine.

This decision has not been made lightly. The machine has a high capital cost, a high operating cost, and requires a separate loading machine, plus maintenance costs and labor to operate.

One positive is that the site preparation cost associated with tractor piling and burning will be reduced significantly.

On the other hand, as long as burning and smoke issues go well, there is nothing more economical and efficient than burning slash in place.

However, the potential for a burn not to go well depends on a number  of unpredictable elements, such as weather that may not behave as forecast, neighbors who may want us to reschedule, fuel moistures which may change and create more smoke, and the number of calls a given air quality officer may receive from the public about smoke.

Unfortunately the regional air quality boards can and do fine permittees even after extensive smoke management plans have been filed, all proper public notice has been given, all permits have been obtained, the latest weather forecasts have been checked, and verbal approval has been obtained from the officer on duty on the day burning is commenced.

Because of the fickle nature of regulatory compliance, we started looking at different options last fall. Many of our new purchases like the Bandit Recycler we first saw at the Oregon Logging conference and at the Las Vegas Construction Expo (Conex).

Our team is very fortunate to attend these conferences so we can view the latest products and talk to different companies that manufacture them.  We are happy for the support given to our team to attend these conferences so we can continue making reasonable and intelligent decisions for the company.

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