Family Values in the Forest
Louis Godon grew up hearing logging stories as just a young boy sitting in the back of his grandma’s bar. That’s where the timber fellers would go at night after a long day in the woods. Louis was only six or seven at the time, but he would settle in and listen.
“I wanted to be like one of those guys,” he remembered. “But it was different times then. The pants were cut off. The cork boots. I just thought they were pretty cool.”
But the first logging influence in his life wasn’t those men. It was his mother, a logger who got into the business as a 28-year-old mother of two. She started by subcontracting timber sales as a log truck driver.
“She had two kids to feed, and she thought that was a good opportunity and a good way to provide for them,” Louis explained.
Logging provided for them then – and now. Louis, 51, worked for his mom’s company on and off in the beginning of his career. He also cut timber on a helicopter block and worked for a cutting contractor as a production faller. Then in 2000, he and his wife Amanda decided to start their own company in Foresthill, California called Volcano Creek Logging, Inc. They named it after the water that runs through the property they lived on at the time. Today the company delivers 20 million board foot on average per year. The Godons also have three children – two sons and a daughter. Like her grandmother and mother, their daughter can’t wait to take her seat in the processor.
“I love what we do,” Amanda said. “This life we lead, being in the woods, supporting our family of crew members and just making a difference in our area is huge. It gives you joy, and you feel accomplished.”
With a background in business management, Amanda takes on the office work, managing the books and a team of nearly 40 employees.
“Louis was raised under a strong female and logger, so he supported me being massively involved in the company and the industry,” Amanda said.
Volcano Creek buys timber as it becomes available and manages a small amount of its own land. Primarily in the Tahoe National Forest and the private land of Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), the team is surrounded by Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir. Recently, the Volcano Creek team logged salvage at a 6,800-foot elevation on private land near Sierraville/Bassets Station, all the remnants of a beetle infestation that destroyed the White Fir and Red Fir.
“The trees we harvested were dead,” Amanda explained. “The western pine beetle has had a massive effect on our forests, all the way down from Southern Sierras to Northern Sierras. It’s catastrophic. It will destroy a whole forest.”
Resilience and forest management
The impact of an infestation is one of the reasons why the Godons are so passionate about forest management. Amanda described the beetles as stealthy killers that destroy the tree and attach to the next one before the first has shown signs of distress.
“We need to manage the forest,” she said. “We need to thin it and make it healthy. Then when we have droughts or bug infestations, if the forest is managed, then it’s more resilient.”
Resilience is required of any logger, in the woods and in public opinion. The Godons said most people don’t understand logging and how it benefits plant and animal life.
“I love caring for the land,” Amanda said. “I wish that I could convey to every part of our society what needs to happen for the forest to be managed properly. We wouldn’t have catastrophic fires. We would have beautiful forests. The trees would grow well. This is a sustainable product that we can grow and harvest.”
The Godons feel the direct impact of massive forest fires through challenging conditions in the saw log market. The wood has to be processed as quickly as possible, flooding the mills with the burnt timber and impacting landowner opportunities to sell live wood. Based on the proximity of the job, Volcano Creek will travel up to three hours to SPI mills, delivering to Lincoln, Oroville, Anderson, Shasta and Quincy, all depending on their needs.
Strong values, strong partnership
The Godons take their responsibility to the forest seriously.
“We have to do everything right,” Amanda said. “Our footprint has to be light. We cannot have damage, nor do we want damage. We want to go out there and do a good job. We want to give logging a great name.”
That’s why Volcano Creek relies on another great name – Waratah. Louis and Amanda say they chose Waratah for its durability and reliability in the woods. The fleet includes a Cat 552 leveling feller buncher with Waratah HTH624C processor head and a Tigercat LH855E leveling track harvester with Waratah HTH623C processor head. The business relies on dealers including Holt of California in Pleasant Grove and Bejac out of Anderson, California.
“Waratah products are built to work,” Louis said. “They’re the best as far as I’m concerned. With the right operator, we can get 30 to 40 loads a day in the right material.”
They value Waratah products for efficiency in the forest, and they know they can count on the company with product support to minimize downtime.
“Waratah has been there for us,” Amanda said. “They have actually walked us through a repair, down to having something shipped for us overnight. We’ve had a support guy drive parts down, so we can be up and running right away. The support is bar none.”
Family and the future
The Godons have made strategic decisions about their future, including creating two other corporations in vegetation management. Volcano Creek also has a trucking side that hauls equipment and logs and subcontracts for others when the need arises. The other company is on the service side, masticating for fuels reduction and performing fire suppression with fire suppression repair.
“We have diversified over the years, hopefully making us less affected by the extreme highs and lows of our industry,” Amanda explained.
Employee satisfaction is also critical to their success. Benefits include full medical, dental, and retirement planning. Every employee is also trained and certified in first aid, CPR and firefighting. Volcano Creek is an active member of Associated California Loggers, American Logging Council and Sierra Cascade Logging Conference. Volcano Creek also earned Firewise USA ® recognition for its community.
Going on 23 years in business, the Godons hope their children will one day run Volcano Creek.
“We have children that want to be here, and hopefully once we’re dead and gone, the children will take over and have the same philosophies as we do,” Amanda said. “I’m proud of what we’ve built and our succession.”
Inspired by their children, Louis and Amanda said there’s nowhere to go but up for Volcano Creek.
“My middle boy wants a big helicopter,” Louis said. “He’s got big plans to fly logs. We’ll see what happens.”
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