Being new to the forest sector, I have to admit that today’s logging operations are quite different than the popular-culture image of a burly, bearded man wearing a plaid shirt and carrying an ax. Three recent firsthand experiences have provided me with a clearer picture of how logging is done in Oregon.
The first experience was on private land, and my guide was forest industry veteran Pete Sikora ofI couldn’t have asked for a better guide than Pete. Since I’m a newcomer to the forest sector, I appreciated that Pete didn’t use too many acronyms – and because he’s spent his entire career in the sector, he was able to tap into his knowledge and explain what I was seeing in a sustainably managed forest.
From this visit to a logging operation, I had three key takeaways:
1) Safety is paramount in logging.
2) Technology is being used in new and unexpected ways to make logging more efficient and safe.
3) Careful planning and preparation are built into the process, to protect wildlife and water.
My second experience was very different, because it was at Oregon State University’sfor the Live In-Woods Show last month. The event itself is a hybrid of trade show, forestry educational outreach and live logging equipment demonstrations. It took three and a half years to plan and execute. The impressive show was a testament to the hard work of all the event volunteers and sponsors who worked to bring the newest equipment, methods and loggers together to put on live demonstrations. These demos showcased cutting-edge logging technology using automation, improved traction to protect soils from compaction, and even some aerial drones that assist with safety during tethered logging operations.
Again I had a great guide at the event: OFRI’s Director of Forestry, Mike Cloughesy. He's on the left in this photo of us at the show:
One other takeaway I had from this experience was provided by the more than 450 high school students in attendance. The young men and women from across Oregon that I observed were engaged in the demonstrations, and excited by possible future careers in the forest industry. I was impressed to see them pulling out their phones to take videos of the demos.
Finally, I recently spent a few hours in a small woodland with Matt Hegerberg, anmember and owner of Heron Timber. Matt’s operation didn’t have all the bells and whistles I saw at the Live In-Woods Show, but I was struck by how deeply he cares about his company and its employees. He and I discussed things like the efforts he’s taken to ensure his employees have family-wage jobs with health care and retirement benefits.
I wish every Oregonian had an opportunity to see a logging operation up-close and personal. These experiences gave me a new and real point of reference. I find that in today’s fast-paced world, many of us don’t take the time to really understand something we don’t experience in our daily lives. We too often rely on the shorthand of pop culture, the media and other people’s opinions to shape our ideas. I guess I’m just another opinion to add to the mix, but I can tell you I didn’t witness anything unsafe, there weren’t too many bearded men, and I certainly didn’t meet anyone who didn’t view themselves as a steward of the land.