The Bad News and The Good News

First the bad news: after 50 years and nine months, this is the final edition of Loggers World, and after 40 years, the final edition of Log Trucker. (There is always the remote chance of moving to strictly electronic distribution (though very remote), and if that comes to pass it would be as either of these established names.)

The reason is simple: economics. From the financial collapse we all suffered through in 2008, we all knew it would be a rough ride, which would require reserves to withstand the storm, which we’ve used. From the end of 2008 we’d heard several economists predict this recession would be like nothing any of us (under 70 or 80 years of age) had ever seen before with a sharp nose dive of revenues and a VERY gradual and prolonged recovery, in distinct contrast to what we’d seen in the past seven decades (steep declines followed by a similarly steep improvement). This would drag on.

Over that span, a lot of logging and trucking companies have closed their doors, many have resized their companies, a number of companies supporting and supplying loggers has shrunk dramatically. The supply chain is rebuilding but still not at 100% as yet (though getting closer each day), and there has been considerable consolidation amongst many businesses and manufacturers as well, all something we’ve all seen as well.

And while business has suffered, the worst thrashing has occurred throughout rural America where the economy was established on natural resources, and where in the Western United States, the change in public policy and lack of clarity in the laws governing public lands, essentially reversing decades of multiple-use management. Every time we hear a pundit or politician prattle on about “creating jobs” and “creating opportunity” they demonstrate how irrelevant that talk is given the policies they sponsor, and the ongoing destruction of opportunity, which has opened the “brain drain” spigot from rural America to the cities.

We’ve passed through that, burned through a lot of cash and reserves to get to this point, and although Washington D.C. tells us the recession ended a few years ago, its crystal clear (and not terribly surprising) that their multiple press releases bear little resemblance to the conditions in non-urban America.

In passing through this calamity the phrase “long gradual,” has certainly held very true.

Beginning in 2013 the logging world has had a considerable uptick in demand and business, in no small part due to their being fewer loggers and fewer logging contractors. That should bode well for business, and virtually everyone we talk with confirm things have improved. Last year was the best for most since 2007, and this year is coming in even better. But that did not significantly trickle down to us.

Loggers World Publications has seen this gradual improvement as well, but it remains short of increased costs accelerating at a more rapid pace, and a lot of uncertainty for at least another three years if not longer. Press costs, mailing, fuel, benefits all rising. However the key problems are the same many businesses face... uncertainty, a lengthy economic downturn, lengthy drain on reserves, time is moving along and there will be at least another three years of uncertainty in front of us, primarily from both Federal and State governments. For the continued risks there is a very limited reward in sight.

My late wife Susan and I have owned Loggers World just over half of its life. It’s been a wonderful ride, meeting and getting to know our industry, being allowed to see and meet the contractors, crews, witness the innovation, tenacity, heart and grit of the logging world. We’ve traveled all over the country and parts of the world including Canada, Finland, Germany and France, finding the mindset and attitude being the same for loggers anywhere in the world.

We’ve witnessed first-hand the cultural cleansing of the timber wars starting in the late 80s, the decline of our federal forests and the surrounding communities.

On the positive side of the ledger, and contrary to what the media tells the world, logging’s resilience, creativity and determination has constantly flexed, changed, and adapted to the rapidly changing public policy. It’s ironic that in the same time frame, the media’s inability to adapt and brought many newspapers, magazines and electronic media to their knees, a mere ghost of their former selves. When the paradigms shifted, and the internet arrived, print in general was firmly imbedded in 1950.

I love this industry and the vast wealth of the personalities within it, virtually all of whom I consider friends. I’ve always been at home wherever I’ve landed in logging, being welcomed with open arms, and sharing your crew, company, thinking and incredible innovation and approaches to real-world logging issues being solved with great creativity and genuine insight. It’s not just the business, however, it is the attitude and drive that separates our numbers from the population as a whole.

We’ve been blessed with terrific crews in our tenure: the additional 20 years of Rigging Shack columns from Finley; Kevin Core, who’s been part of Loggers World a year longer than me, a solid colleague, and good friend who most have talked with for advertising the past 26 years... there is none better; Jim Holding, long time ad manager for Log Trucker; many writers including Bill Palmroth, Myron Metcalf, Otto Oja, Darin Burt, Jerry Capps to name a few. And we’ve had several office managers as well, longest term was Jean Hays (Finley’s wife), the heart of Loggers World from the start in ‘64 until early in 1990, when my beloved wife and partner Susan took over the reigns until her passing in 2006, then Julie Clark, and finally Holly Larson. As occurs in logging, the company is the people, and we’ve been blessed with a fine crew.
Logging will, as Finley held from his first issue, survive even these hard times. We’re an industry of survivors and innovators, and those forests are only turned into cash when the trees are horizontal, and we do that better than any loggers in the world.

It’s been an honor serving all of you the past 50 years, and my past 25 years. Log safe, and may God bless and protect you, your crew, and families. You will always be in my mind for the rest of time. Until we meet again, thank you.

The good news

The 1970’s produced a flock of legislation passed and enacted without a lot of forethought (imagine, congress would do something so dense?), including child labor laws eventually removed those under 18 from working. Sounded good, but had some unforeseen consequences. The agriculture industry has long enjoyed regulatory exemptions that permit family members between the ages of sixteen and seventeen to participate and learn the operations of the family business under the direct supervision of their parents. Finally Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID) introduced H.R. 4590, the Future Logging Careers Act to the House on May 7th. This bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to allow for sixteen and seventeen year olds in mechanized logging operations to work in the business under parental supervision.

The Future Logging Careers Act, if passed, would ensure the next generation’s opportunity to learn and operate mechanical timber harvesters, safety training and experience under close supervision of their parents.

Contact and encourage your local congressional representative to sign on, sponsor and support this legislation, and the reasons why.
Our compliments to Congressman Labrador, and the American Loggers Council for their support of this legislation.

Innovations

There wasn’t sufficient room in the April issue to display some of the innovations introduced at the April Intermountain Logging Conference in Spokane that may be worth your interest.

The first was a dual arch telescopic boom swinging grapple mounted on a John Deere 848H skidder, which Bill Jones designed and has had in field use for some while (30,000 hours roughly). It’s a serious swing grapple which extends several feet. We found it an interesting and innovative approach that could be worth your time and interest. Jones has been a long-time fixture in the logging business and currently is the used equipment manager for Triple W Equipment in Missoula, Montana (406) 549-4171.

The other came out of the University of Idaho and called The Choker Keeper, which we found at the Intermountain, which appeared as a large (10-13 inch roughly) aluminum donut. But it’s what’s inside that counts: a series of magnets arranged within the aluminum housing, which rides blow the carriage at the same length as the chokers bells. Where chokers typically are swinging loosely and need to be corralled and untangled, The Choker Keeper will magnetically attract those chokers to the aluminum ring and hold them securely. They’ve filed a patent on the device and it’s currently undergoing field trials for contractors to evaluate and improve the design.