Brown Brothers (Logging Contractors)
Most logging contractors are family businesses, but the Brown Brothers are extraordinary — the
family logging business dates back to Idaho statehood.
Tim Brown and his brother John from Emmett are 4th generation loggers. “My ancestors started
with horse-logging and the mines in Hailey and Prairie,” says Tim Brown. “This is more than a job.
It’s a way of life for us. It’s what we do.” Tim’s grandfather and grandmother, Timothy and Lona Brown, were the first couple married in Prairie, a tiny town at the base of the Trinity Mountains, in 1909. His dad, Bus, grew up in Hailey, and continued the logging tradition.
The Browns don’t do much logging in Prairie anymore, but they keep busy working on timber sales on Idaho State Endowment Land, private timberlands and occasional national forest sales. They stay busy working for the three sawmills — Idaho Forest Group in Grangeville, Boise Cascade in Eastern Oregon, and Evergreen Forest Products in New Meadows — cutting about 25 million board feet per year.
Recently, they worked on three sales purchased by Boise Cascade in the Zimmer Creek area on state land, near Banks, Idaho. The forests in that area had burned in the 6,150-acre Springs Fire. The state moved quickly after the fires to offer three sales in the area totaling 3 million board feet.
The Browns logged that job, and contract truckers hauled the logs to Boise Cascade’s sawmills in La Grande, Elgin and Pilot Rock, all in Oregon. “Time-wise, the Oregon mills are often as close as Evergreen Mill near New Meadows,” Tim Brown says. The Browns are a big logging outfit.
They employ over 30 people. They have more than 20 pieces of heavy equipment. Three of Tim Brown’s sons have been working for the company since they were about 13 years old, mostly during the summers until they graduated. They will be the 5th generation of Brown Brothers. Matt, the oldest, handles the mechanical duties, keeping all of the company’s trucks and heavy equipment in working order, Jake runs the skid cat, supervises the crew and log cutters, and Luke loads most the trucks and oversees the contract truckers who work for the Browns.
Tim’s sister, Chris Coxe, handles the accounting, and Tim runs the overall business.
“He’s the lead delegator,” says Matt with a mischievous grin. “These boys are
our future,” says Tim Brown, who is edging toward retirement. “It’s a smooth transition
because the boys keep doing more and more. Our most valuable asset is their youth
“And we get along pretty well — most of the time,” says Luke Brown with a grin.
“Even working with our employees, it’s somewhat of a friendship,” adds Jake Brown. “We have a lot of camaraderie with our people. We have one goal — all of us working together as a team.”
When the boys were young, Tim Brown started them out running “straw lines” (cables that pull bigger cables that skid logs to the landing), setting “chokers” (a cable or chain that loops around the log like a short lasso) and running skidders (a tractor-like piece of equipment used to pull logs out of the woods), and as they got older, they learned how to run all of the heavy equipment. “We all learned that it’s work before play,” says Luke Brown.
“Although each of the boys has a specific job or piece of equipment to run, all of them can jump into a different situation on a different machine and run it like it was the easiest thing to master,” writes Ashley Brown, the wife of Jake Brown who penned a story about the family logging business in the January 2013 issue of Idaho Magazine. “It has been ingrained in them that you watch, you learn, you do it yourself, and then work together to get it done …. Almost every worker is a “generation logger” and I can see their appreciation and admiration of the Brown Brothers.”
Like all logging companies, the Browns are using more high-tech equipment than ever, using feller-bunchers for cutting trees, log-processors for delimbing the trees, rubber-tired skidders to be lighter on the land. Yarders are used to fully or partially suspend trees as they are skidded on steep and sensitive ground. They also have dozers and excavators for building new logging roads or reopening old logging roads. “Everything has definitely moved more to high-tech equipment,” Tim Brown says. “You definitely need to stay on top of things.”
Brown says they benefitted from Boise Cascade encouraging their logging contractors to go through “Pro Logger” training, which schools participants in sound safety procedures and best management practices regarding the protection of the environment. When the Browns log for Boise Cascade or Idaho Forest Group, the logs and lumber produced are certified through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), a green seal indicating the logging and milling were done in an environmentally sustainable way.
Discussing timber supply, Tim Brown hopes that national forest timber sales increase. U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell visited Boise twice last year, and both times, he said that he wants the Forest Service to increase timber harvest to reduce the threat of wildfires to mountain communities, and to improve forest health through restoration projects. Collaborative groups are the way that the Forest Service works through contentious issues nowadays, and Tim Brown is “impressed” with projects coming out of the Payette National Forest collaborative.
Still, he says, “you wonder if there’s any of that expertise left in the Forest Service. Everybody who used to lay out timber sales is retired.”
The Brown boys see a promising future ahead because they think there will be fewer logging contractors around because of an aging workforce, and there will be a lot of work needed to be done. “I think at some point in the future, sawmills will be coming to us and paying a premium because of the quality of work we do and it will be harder for them to find qualified loggers to do the job,” says Luke Brown.
In their free time, the Browns are big-time Boise State University Bronco football fans. They painted a new ski cat in gleaming orange-and-blue Bronco colors. “We set up and tailgate at every game,” Tim Brown says.
“We know how to work hard, but we know how to play hard, too,” says Jake Brown.
The Brown boys also are raising families of their own. Matt and Becky have three kids, Jake and Ashley have two kids, and Luke and Becky have three. Ashley Brown says that she often packs up for a week and heads to the camp trailer at logging sites, so her kids can spend time with their dad. The other boys’ families do that as well.
“Even though I’ve learned that dedication and hard work are essential to the success of a logging family, I know that most of all, the secret is sticking together,” she writes. “No matter who does what, or who is right or wrong, family always comes before business. And I think that’s what makes the corporation tick …. I’m proud to be part of a logging legacy.”
Want to know more?
º Learn about Brown Brothers Construction and Logging:
º Brown Brothers Logging – Still Going Strong 5 generations later:
º Learn About Pro Logger training – Associated Logging Contractors:
º Learn about logging in Idaho:
º Learn about Idaho’s Pro Logging Program:
º See a video about road building in Idaho:
º Learn about logging in general:
º Learn about the University of Idaho’s Student Logging Crew: