Pantermehl Land Clearing of Ashfield has been named the Massachusetts Wood Producer of the Year for 2023 by the Massachusetts Forest Alliance of Marlborough.

Pantermehl Land Clearing is a 40-year-old diversified family business that does logging, land clearing and other operations in Western Mass and other states.  Richard Pantermehl began logging in 1983 at age 18 as a sole proprietor with a chainsaw and a dozer after finding that college didn’t interest him.  Working steadily in the woods, he slowly grew his business, getting his first mechanized Bell harvester in 1995 and diversifying into whole tree chipping in 2000.

Today, Pantermehl Land Clearing is now a much larger business that has 11 employees.  Operations now include, trucking, maintaining right of ways for utilities and railroads, moving timber mats for transmission line maintenance, clearing for wildlife habitat, excavation and septic system installs.  While timber harvesting is no longer the sole focus of the business, Richard still does and especially enjoys logging jobs and wildlife habitat work.

The diversified forestry operations have led the company to invest in a variety of equipment including a feller buncher, whole tree chippers, forwarders, excavators, grinders, log trucks, dump trucks and trailers all of which are maintained in the company’s shop in Ashfield.  After working elsewhere, his two sons, Luke & Drew, now work with Rich in the family business.

Forest Alliance President Dicken Crane praised Pantermehl in presenting him with the award at the Forest Alliance’s Annual Meeting in Greenfield  “There are a lot of jobs where some aspect can only be done efficiently by equipment that smaller loggers can’t

afford to invest in,” said Crane.  “Working with Pantermehl’s allows you to get those parts of a job done at an affordable cost and benefits everyone.”

One job Pantermehl did that required specialized equipment was opening up the overgrown railroad right of way for Knowledge Corridor train service along the Pan Am Railways line between Springfield and East Northfield.  To do the work, they had to have equipment modified so it could operate on the railway track itself because many parts of the line have no highway access.

In an interview, Rich Pantermehl said that he had been lucky to take advantage of opportunities as they arose. He felt he was lucky to have started his business in the 1980s when equipment was more affordable than now when many machines cost $500,000 or more. He is fortunate to have great relationships with other businesses in the industry. Rich credits the old-time loggers for their mentorship in the early days. He also credits his hardworking and loyal crews, past and present, for building and expanding the business.

The warming climate has made working in the environment much more difficult.  “We used to be able to get so much more done between December and March because the ground would stay frozen and you didn’t have to worry about damaging stuff.  Now it’s cold one week, then it thaws out, then it gets cold again, and it thaws again.  It is very hard to plan what you can do from one week to the next.”

Pantermehl said he was also worried about the changes to our forests due to the problems caused by invasive species.  “We are losing ash to the emerald ash borer, and now there is a new pest killing beech.  A lot of hemlock stands are being killed by the hemlock adelgid, and red spruce, which used to do very well up here, is also declining.”

The result is a much less diversified forest, with fewer species and less habitat for wildlife.

The Douglas B. Cook Wood Producer of the Year Award is presented by the Forest Alliance each year to a timber harvester, sawmill operator, or forest products professional who exemplifies the late Doug Cook’s spirit of innovation and leadership in the industry.