May June, 2003





Assoc. Logging Contractors Gather for 35th Annual Meeting

Forest health plan and habitat hot issues

By Barbara Coyner

ALC Executive Director Shawn Keough bird-dogs ALC business both as director and as a state legislator for District One out of Sandpoint. She’s been director for over three years.

What if a logging employee substitutes portable stereo headphones for adequate hearing protection, then later sues the logging contractor for hearing loss? What if legislation affecting Idaho logging is based on junk science? And what if agricultural field burning laws branch out to include slash burning practices in the future? For the Associated Logging Contractors 35th Annual Meeting in Clarkston, Wash., it was a full plate of “what ifs” for Idaho loggers. Even the keynote address by Evergreen editor Jim Peterson considered a “what if the President calls, do you hang up?” scenario with regard to President Bush’s healthy forests initiative.

Logging contractors, timber haulers and other supporting ALC members, however, seem conditioned to the goods, the bads and uglies of the business, with ALC membership hovering around 400. About 100 attended the 3-day meeting, fittingly held on Arbor Day. They mixed their time between business topics and the more laid back events such as the annual Bang- Whacker Tournament and a balmy ride up the Snake River in a jet boat. “It’s not possible for all the members to make the meeting because operators get so busy out there working,” newly elected President Tim Christopherson said soon after taking over the leadership reins from Jack Buell, who had served for 10 years. “But there’s a lot of clout in an association like this.”

Changing of the guard Tim Christopherson (left) takes over ALC reins from Jack Buell, who has served as president for ten years. Tim Christopherson and his cousin Rick run Dabco Logging out of Kamiah. Dabco is celebrating its 50th year in 2003.

Top notch team
Christopherson, a Kamiah logging contractor who runs Dabco Logging with his cousin Rick, brings years of experience to the job. Like others in the group, however, he depends heavily on a hard-hitting trio who run interference for the ALC. Shawn Keough, the ALC Executive Director, wears a second hat as a state legislator for District 1 and is now entering her fourth term. She carries the clout all the way from Sandpoint to Boise. In the lineup, as well, are ALC attorney Nancy Wolff and Betty Munis, Executive Director of Idaho Forest Products Commission (IFPC). The three make up a strong and informed advocacy group, backed not only by loggers, but a spunky contingent of Idaho Women in Timber.

Positive push for Bush
Throughout the meeting, ALC members noted some positive aspects to the business, mainly in the form of President George Bush’s forest health measures, the fire plan, and surprisingly, some bright spots in public opinion. “The fire plan is an opportunity for work,” Keough pointed out. “And when the healthy forests initiative was going to be introduced by the administration, the press contacted our office before details were released, wanting some input. They interviewed me, and about 10 to 15 million people nationwide heard those reports. We got calls from all over the nation, so we knew the message did get out. It was supportive of the president and also brought out the message that we’re environmental stewards.”

IFPC’s Munis, who works directly with education and the media, stressed that after the major fires in the West, most people were more concerned with wildlife habitat and water quality than they were with personal property loss. That means loggers continue to have a stake in good forest practices and educating the public about what happens in the woods, she said. “Teachers are very careful about who they trust,” Munis added in discussing IFPC’s ongoing educational programs such as Project Learning Tree. Munis announced that IFPC had teamed up with businesses such as Kinkos and Home Depot to plant thousands of trees for Arbor Day 2003. Though such retailers are constantly pressured to carry “green certification” products, their actual concern is staying in the black. That means loggers have to operate on the straight and narrow to keep customers pleased. Munis emphasized that IFPC looks for opportunities such as Arbor Day to keep the message of responsible logging and forestry out in the public eye.

Concerns about habitat
Meanwhile, ALC attorney Nancy Wolff expressed wariness over habitat conservation plans (HCPs), Endangered Species Act (ESA) issues and the never-ending roadless area/wilderness fiascos, showing that trust issues go both ways. Even the fire plan and proposed healthy forest initiative could potentially backfire for loggers wanting to thin unhealthy forests. “I expect they’ll try and paint all of the Northwest with a broad brush as critical habitat. Some will try, but we are seeing new rules with the new administration.” Though habitat conservation issues continue as the highest profile threat to responsible logging, Wolff saluted her audience for rising to the challenges. “The education and level of sophistication with in your ranks is rapidly on the increase. You’re well read on the issues and continue to move forward.”

Focus on ESA
policy Greg Schildwachter of Governor Dirk Kempthorne’s Office of Species Conservation, too, praised the group for professionalism and stewardship. Yet he again amplified the atmosphere of mistrust existing between loggers and the sometimes environmentalistinfluenced public. Dr. Schildwachter, a wildlife biologist, reported on the progress of restoring wolf and grizzly populations, noting that both species have shown significant recovery. He expects both animals to be delisted, with management responsibilities eventually handled by the state. The necessary ESA revisions, however, don’t show the same type of progress. “We’re the only state with a team assembled by the governor to assess these difficult issues,” Schildwachter said.

“We want to fix ESA policy. In fact, we’ve got to fix that stuff because it doesn’t respect you, and it doesn’t respect the state or local governments either. Our focus is to make a policy that doesn’t keep creating problems. The time is past due for wolf and grizzly policies to include the state’s ideas.” Species such as the wolf and grizzly seem to eventually recover on their own once people stop killing them, Schildwachter said. The ESA, in the meantime, has created a climate for junk science, he acknowledged. “Because a person works for an agency, they aren’t necessarily a scientist just because they took a few science classes. We need to make things the same as we do for the third grader doing a math problem. Show your work for full credit.”

Back to work
The varied rings of cell phones underscored that even in the ALC meeting, logging contractors and truckers tend to stick close to business. It was no less obvious during this session as truckers slipped out to redirect trucks hit by a mill closure at Bonners Ferry, or finish a bid for a private landowner. For director Shawn Keough, the work duties remain no less demanding. “It comes down to communication and advocacy and sometimes that means someone has to sit by the phone and have the time to dog it. I have a very optimistic personality and always look at things as the glass bring half full. The very nature of Idaho is that we grow trees here and we grow them very well. Americans consume more wood products than anyone else in the world so we need to continue to provide for that. Our job as an association is making sure that happens.”


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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004