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February 2006 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal


Promoting good logging practices

A new Master Logger Certification Program from the Canadian Woodlands Forum is expected to help reinforce and promote the commitment to good logging practices among logging contractors in Atlantic Canada.

By George Fullerton

Across North America, the practice of forest management is coming under increased scrutiny and—in a lot of cases—significant restrictions. In some places, the negative public perception of forestry and forest management is leading to local governments enacting restrictive regulations to limit certain forestry practices that are perceived to cause negative environmental and other impacts.

Despite the best intentions of local governments, the misguided public policy of forest management often leads to unanticipated, long-term negative environmental impacts, creating barriers to sustainable management, eroding land values, and an accelerated conversion to alternative land uses.

Many associations representing forestry professionals (professional foresters and technicians/technologists) as well as forestland owner organizations have been working to balance this negative tide by adopting and promoting “right to practise forestry” policies that support science-based and credible forest management practices.

As the frontline workers of the forest industry, harvesting contractors are faced with more than their fair share of the public scrutiny leveled at the forest industry. Despite meeting an increasingly wide array of provincial, municipal and federal regulations, growing demands for employee training, certification requirements—as well as demands for operating a high volume business operation including manpower challenges, technically demanding equipment and major financing hurdles—today’s harvest contractors often lack the opportunity to align themselves in organizations that provide professional status and a united voice to balance the negative public perception.

Although managing a modern logging business requires a high degree of professionalism to be both competitive and profitable, logging contractors are generally not recognized for their dedication and expertise.

However, the Canadian Woodlands Forum (CWF) is now championing the cause of bringing “professional” status to harvest or logging contractors by launching the Atlantic Master Logger Certification Program (AMLCP). The program is designed specifically to bring recognition to harvesting businesses that provide a professional standard. It is voluntary and provides independent third-party auditing, which will assure the credibility of the certification.

Peter Robichaud, executive director of the CWF, and recently appointed Ambassador of the Master Logger Program, is encouraged by the contractor subscription to two pilot programs launched last year in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. “The groups of contractors that have applied for the pilot have the right attitude. They understand the value of the Master Logger Program and they are committed to practising and promoting good logging practices and operating as business professionals,” says Robichaud.

Robichaud explains that the Master Logger Program embraces a principle of professionalism which is expected to go a long way toward gaining public confidence that logging and forest resource management is being done in a professional and sustainable manner. The program is open to all sizes of logging businesses, from one- and two-man operations through to major stump-to-dump operations.

The AMLCP is not an entirely new concept. The structure and the general goals, objectives and guiding principles of the program borrow heavily from the Master Logger Program that was developed by loggers in the state of Maine. “We had great support from the folks that run the Maine program,” comments Robichaud. “They’ve assisted us in getting our program up and running.”

Since the Maine program was launched in 2000, 85 logging companies have become certified and 46 have been recertified after their first three-year accreditation period. The Maine program welcomes the participation of any size of logging company, and the program has attracted national and international attention. It has been adopted as a national model for logger certification by 27 state associations in the American Logging Council.

Maine loggers decided that in order to compete successfully in the global marketplace, logging companies and forestry professionals need to set standards for economic and environmental performance. Their certification—and the AMLCP’s certification—is based on audited performance in the woods.

It seemed like a natural step to adapt the Maine program since it has a proven track record with loggers. It also has good recognition with mills in Maine, a positive selling point when you consider that a significant portion of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI wood finds a market there. Robichaud adds that the AMLCP structure is also dovetailed with certain contractor training requirements of FSC, CSA, and SFI certification programs.

AMLCP is based on seven principles: sustainability, responsible practices, training and certification, minimizing disturbance and damage, strengthening the economic viability of forest communities, guaranteeing transparency of actions and continual improvement.

The AMLCP also embraces a Code of Ethics that requires diligence in all aspects of business operations, training and knowledge development, and fiscal accountability.

Administered by the CWF, AMLCP is built around voluntary certification boards which have been created in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador. They consist of eight members, while a combination board for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island has 12 members. The boards review certification applications and render a decision on
granting certification.

The Certification Boards’ representation will include a logger, and representatives from the forest industry, a model forest, a conservation organization, the tourism industry, academia, government and private woodlot owners.

The certification process begins with the applicant contractor submitting a three-page company profile. The application is followed with the ambassador conducting an on-site interview to complete a more detailed company profile and a detailed review of AMLPC standards. Additionally, the contractor supplies three professional references and identifies ten harvest sites which will be evaluated by independent field verifiers to determine that past work meets the AMLCP standard.

“I have conducted a handful of the interviews and they are pretty comprehensive, taking from three to five hours to complete,” explains Robichaud.

“The interview is an opportunity to review the standard in greater detail and clarify the criteria and indicators that the field verifiers will use to evaluate the past harvesting practices.”

Robichaud says that the certification process creates a significant demand for documentation of various aspects of business activities, from first aid training and accreditation of employees, through to watercourse alteration permits, WHIMIS certificates and fire suppression system certifications and other work-related permits.
The requirements also cover documentation of harvesting plans for private lands, as well as harvest operation closeout documentation.

“It might appear that there is a high requirement for documentation, but contractors are already handling the bulk of this in order to be in legal compliance. Master Logger is simply looking to see the required paperwork. In most cases, it simply means collecting all the documentation into one spot to comply with the interview requirements. We have also designed Harvest Planning and Post- Harvest Checklists that we believe will be adopted by contractors as operational tools for themselves and landowners.”

Field verification is carried out by two independent field verifiers who contact the applicant to arrange visits to random harvest sites. The verifiers complete a site inspection checklist, which evaluates the harvest site against the AMLCP goals, and summarize the findings in a report.

The pre-qualification and site reports are forwarded first to the applicant for review and verification. Once satisfied the application is in order, the contractor signs a code of ethics and a release form allowing the application to be submitted to the Certification Board.

The application is assigned a code to ensure anonymity before it (and field verification) is forwarded to the provincial certification boards. The Certification Board is expected to convene meetings at least twice a year to review applications. Applications are either accepted, rejected, or (due to a lack of consensus) more information is requested.

Contractors who become certified are notified (certification is granted for a period of three years) and sent a certification package which will include administrative and promotional products. During the certification period, the contractor will be subjected to a random field audit, and if there are issues of non-conformity, the contractor will be notified in writing and requested to address any issues.

Robichaud says that the cost of becoming certified is expected to be in the range of $3,000 to $5,000, a pretty significant sum in addition to the time to cover interviews and assembling the required documentation. But the AMLCP should be looked upon as an investment rather than a strict business cost, Robichaud adds. He says that Master
Logger will become a tool for contractors wishing to establish their professionalism and high standard of operation when dealing with landowners.

Robichaud notes that the Master Logger certification will also help timber buying industries confirm with their customers that the timber was harvested by a professional contractor that adheres to a high degree of environmental and business ethics.

“The program signifies that the loggers have achieved a very high degree of professional credibility. It is not out of line, I think, to suggest that wood buying companies should support the successful application of contractors because it provides assurance that those wood producers are meeting the production criteria demanded by certification programs,” says Robichaud.

Larry Martin, manager of Clarence C Martin Ltd, in Ripples, New Brunswick, attended an information session for Atlantic Master Loggers in Moncton this past summer. “Things are always changing in the forest industry,” says Martin. “This is just another thing that has come along, and I think it will benefit my company and operations.” Martin comments that the mills he supplies are increasingly requiring certified forestry training, in order to meet certification requirements that their final customers are demanding for forest products. “Master Logger will serve to compliment some of those mill demands and may stand alone to meet other mills’ certification requirements.”


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