What started out as two 16-year-old kids in Ohio in 1970 simply cutting and selling firewood to make an extra buck has now turned into family-grown businesses that encompass post and pole, logging, and mastication operations. Greg and Sue Wehr have been in this business for over forty years and have seen our industry from all sides from logging to manufacturing. Whether you spot Forest’s lowboy driving down the highway or you pass their post and pole facility to the east between Deer Lodge and Racetrack, the Wehr family has indeed left their mark on the forest products industry. At the heart of everything they do is a love for family and a desire to create a business that their family will be proud of for generations to come.
The Wehrs left Ohio in 1974 and bought 80-acres of property in Little Forks, Minnesota. This is where Greg and Sue truly learned to live off the land. The property was ideal for both agriculture and timber management, something they both still enjoy forty plus years later. Greg, at the time, worked at a local cedar mill, and in his spare time he and Sue would horse log on their own property. They also built their own cabin all by hand from logs that were cut off their own land.
The couple had bought 20-acres of timbered property in 1982 in Helmville with the dream of moving to Montana one day, property they still own today. So, in 1984, Greg and Sue left Minnesota and made the move west to Montana. They started timber harvest on their property with the focus on small diameter post and pole. This was about the same time they started purchasing small agency sales, and logging was performed by a chainsaw and pickup.
From 1984 to 1986, the Wehrs planted trees for Champion International in Libby. Eventually this job grew to jobs for Plum Creek as well as planting for both the BLM and the USFS. The time they spent in Libby was also their first-time cutting tee pee poles for a local guy. Little did they know that this would be a staple of their operation for them in the future.
Like most loggers, the early ‘90s was the time that mechanical logging started to take off, and that was no different for Greg and Sue. Their first piece of mechanical equipment was a skidsteer with a felling head. The purchase of this piece of equipment also gave Greg and Sue’s boy, Forest, his first exposure to working in the woods. Forest remembers this well as his first skidding experience was running a farm tractor at seven years old. He chuckles remembering this because it wasn’t the safest piece of equipment! Then, in late ‘90s, the first rubber-tired skidder, a John Deere 440, was purchased, one the Wehrs still own today. The focus of their logging was tight spacing thinning of post and pole. The youngest of their two boys, Willow, began helping with the family business as well around this time. His first job duties included hand piling brush piles.
In 2004, Greg and Sue started Whispering Pines Post and Pole but were still actively logging in the woods focusing on small diameter lodgepole pine. They direct-shipped tee pee poles out of Missoula while they logged and ran the post and pole yard for around four years. However, in 2008, Greg and Sue decided to focus primarily on running the post and pole yard. Forest had just finished up Diesel Tech School with an Associate’s degree and had bought his first piece of logging equipment: a Timberjack 380. This allowed him to handle the forestry side of things while his parents operated the post and pole yard.
Today, the post and pole yard produces traditional fencing materials, but it also prides itself in small diameter lodgepole that is used for tee pee poles and glamping packages. If you have watched the movies Dances with Wolves, The Lone Ranger, Walking Dead, the Yellowstone series, and a variety of commercials, you might have noticed the tee pees were from Whispering Pines Post and Pole. The tee pee poles are not only sold domestically but shipments continue all over the world.
While his parents are actively working at the post and pole yard, Forest is hard at work owning and operating King Mountain Forestry. He credits his wife, Kate, for handling all of the office work and HR issues all while raising their five kids. In 2012, Forest was awarded his first mulching contract. This was a military contract focused on reducing canopy cover in order to detect if any artillery shells. At the same time, Willow started working with his brother overseeing mastication contracts until 2015. Willow then left the woods, and for a brief period he worked with his parents running the post and pole facility before deciding to take a position doing welding/fabrication and mechanic work. King Mountain Forestry and his crew continue to work on both private and agency timber sales running a full mechanical logging side along with contracting equipment to the USFS on wildfires. In addition to his business, Forest serves as the Deer Lodge chapter director for the MLA.
The future looks brighter then ever for the Wehr family as business operations on all sides continue. Conversations are taking place about Forest and his wife Kate taking over the post and pole facility sometime in the near future. There is no firm date on this, but Greg and Sue are looking forward to slowing down and focusing their time on other things besides work. After forty years, this time off is much deserved. They are truly looking forward to watching and being involved in their children and six grandchildren’s lives.