Tristar Inc Client Feature | Empire Southwest

Client Feature:
TriStar, Inc.

Reforestation firm achieves dramatic growth with Cat® equipment

After two devastating forest fires that swept through and destroyed more than a million acres of beautiful Ponderosa pine in northern Arizona, local industry teamed with environmentalists to proactively protect their forests through a massive reforestation and woodland management initiative.

A little known fact is that Arizona, commonly considered a desert, actually contains the largest stand of ponderosa pine in the world.

Fortunately, despite the recent catastrophic fires, there are still millions of acres of forestlands that require enlightened management—through thinning and stewardship methods—to eliminate the hundreds of thousands of tons of biomass these forests produce annually. Left undisturbed, that biomass can fuel uncontrollable fires.

News Image Tristar 1

Helping to lead reforestation efforts in northern Arizona is the rapidly growing TriStar Inc., headquartered in Snowflake, Ariz., and founded January 1, 1986 by Stephen Reidhead, president. “I call myself an environmentalist because I am cleaning up the forest,” said Reidhead.

An uncommon alliance between local industry and environmentalists is creating healthier forests that will be more fire-resistant, retain more water from snowfalls and improve wildlife habitat for future generations.

In Arizona, unchecked forest growth enables thirsty, fast-growing pinyon-juniper species, that each suck up to 100 gallons of water every week from the forest soil, to quickly surround and threaten communities. These “doghair thickets” of overgrown, pre-commercial trees create a fire hazard and the thicker these tree stands, the less water available to local ranchers and farmers.

To remedy the situation and stimulate healthier forest growth, it’s critical to thin out and open up the forests thereby allowing larger trees adequate water and access to unblocked sunshine.

The Future of Reforestation

To make extracting the wood products that result from reforestation economically viable required a supporting industrial infrastructure. NovoStar Wood Products was formed by TriStar, Inc. and Novo Power, both located near Snowflake, Ariz. NovoStar Wood Products has partnered with Vaagen Brothers in bringing a high speed, small diameter sawmilling operation to round out the necessary processing operations.

Novo BioPower is a renewable energy company that began operations in 2008 and is engaged in biomass power generation utilizing wood waste as a primary fuel source. It processes approximately 200,000 tons of biomass per year.

The Novo BioPower Plant is a 27-megawatt biomass power plant located in Snowflake, 180 miles northeast of Phoenix. The Novo Plant has two power purchase agreements in place with Arizona Public Services and Salt River Project, Arizona’s two largest electric utilities that together deliver more than 50 percent of Arizona’s electricity.

Within a 100-mile radius of the plant, there are millions of acres of forestland populated primarily with ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper species. The land is owned and managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Arizona State Lands, Fort Apache Indian Tribe, and private landowners.

“We don’t cut the big trees anymore,” says Reidhead. “The Forest Service came up with a plan to not cut any large trees. Due to the fire hazard an overgrown forest presents, the “blackjack” trees we are now required to cut range from 16- inch diameter down to just one inch and a height of only three feet. They are lower grade timber but actually represent better profit opportunity,” says Reidhead.



“Empire approached us and offered to provide the financing, so we decided to trade out most of our older trucks.”
- Stephen Reidhead, President, TriStar, Inc.


However, it would be impossible to economically cut out/remove such small trees without the assistance of Arizona industry.

TriStar is able to economically harvest this smaller growth timber by partnering with a biomass plant, a pellet plant and sawmill in an efficient, wood products processing alliance.

Once the smaller growth trees are harvested, they are delimbed and top ends, branches, slash and needles are sorted into piles at the landings for the NovoPower Biomass Plant.

Smaller logs of lower quality are sent through an on-site chipper and hauled to Forest Energy, a local pellet plant.

Good, saw log-type wood is cut into lengths at two-foot segments from 16 ft. to 10 ft. and loaded into TriStar’s logging truck trailer bunks for transport to the NovoStar Woodproducts sawmill.

The result is total usage of the forest products and a much cleaner, healthier forest.

14 CT660s Trigger 78% Growth

By consulting time studies, Reidhead learned that maximizing production levels was the only way to grow TriStar’s capabilities and capitalize on the demands of the local reforestation efforts.

“Empire Cat approached us and offered to provide the financing, so we decided to trade out most of our older trucks, since their mounting repair costs were almost as high as the payments, and acquire a fleet of new Cat® CT660 trucks.”

Cat Equipment

  • 320B LL, 320C LL Log Loaders
  • 525B, 525D, 555D Skidders
  • D3B, D5K Dozers
  • IT62 Integrated Toolcarrier
  • 140M Motor Grader
  • 324 FM Processor
  • 938G Wheel Loader
  • 262B Skid Steer Loader
  • 14 Cat CT660 Trucks

The new trucks are equipped with 13-speed transmissions, DEF systems and Cat CT13 Tier 4 Final engines that deliver 475 horsepower. The CT660s are achieving good fuel efficiency at 6 MPG, easily outperforming their old fleet that averaged only 4.7 MPG.

The results have been nothing short of spectacular.

In 2013, TriStar was running 20–25 loads per day. With the new trucks in 2014, production doubled to 40–50 loads per day and they grew by an amazing 78 percent. For 2016, their target is 60–70 loads per day. New state legislation now allows 90,800 lb. truckloads and that has been a real plus.

The chipper’s upgraded 1,050 horsepower Cat C27 engine enables TriStar to load trucks faster so there’s less idling time and increased production with more trips to the mill.

Employees have grown from 15 to 50.

Family Joins Business

Though proud of their progress, Reidhead mentions that at the same time, his greatest challenge has been the company’s tremendous growth. To help handle the growth, Reidhead turned to family members. Son Allen is vice president over all operations; Jeff is supervisor of all grinding work; Kevin joined the company in April to apply his skills to office management, assisting with the bid process and streamlining costs. Reidhead’s brother, John, also joined the company as woods superintendent.

Cat Fleet Productive

In addition to their 14 Cat CT660 logging trucks, TriStar operates a Cat 324D Processor with a danglehead saw picking thinned trees, sorting and cutting them to length and stacking them at the landings. A 320B LL feeds the chipper that is powered by a 1,050 hp Cat C27 engine. While a 320C LL is used to load saw logs into the truck bunks. In addition, a new Cat 525D skidder drags logs to the landings from the surrounding cell. A dozer then rakes and clears the landings that are then reseeded before moving on to the next cell.

Why Cat Equipment and Empire

“Caterpillar came with a couple of things for me,” says Reidhead, “First thing has to be the financing with nothing down; and second their great support. They have a store only 20 miles away from us in Show Low, right in the middle of all our timber. If we have a problem, they’re usually here in within 30 minutes. I appreciate the Empire team and the fact that they are using their dealership to make us a better player and a more successful company.”

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