On February 16, 2012, I had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. to give both written and oral testimony before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Committee on Energy and Commerce. I discussed the current rules and regulations that affect not only our company, Cross & Crown, Inc., but thousands of logging and forestry companies across the United States.
My name is Bob Luoto and I am a third generation logger. I have worked and lived in the northwest section of Oregon for over 40 years and the majority of my family lives just outside of two great little towns called McMinnville and Carlton, Oregon. I have served as President of both the Associated Oregon Loggers and the American Loggers Council. Currently, I represent the American Loggers Council on the SFI Board of Directors where I am currently serving as Board Chairman.
The issues that I addressed before the Subcommittee is our support of House bill (HR 2541), and the recent court rulings invalidating the EPA’s Silvicultural Rule, which has been in effect almost as long as I have been a professional logger. These rulings would effectively put the building and hauling on all logging roads under the permitting process of the EPA. The original EPA rules were never intended to focus on forest roads; however, they are now included after the rulings by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which is located in San Francisco, California.
The other issues that I testified on involved the regulatory uncertainty facing professional loggers in woody biomass. The uncertainty created by the countless lawsuits that have prevented the harvesting of timber from our federal lands, and the loss of generations of loggers, as our industry has declined from 73,500 logging jobs in 2001 to 48,400 in 2010. This is a tragic loss of over 35 percent of our industry nationwide. These rulings will affect our company greatly. The same issues will certainly affect all of the logging and forestry companies throughout the United States. We will all be affected by one or more of these issues in the near future.
I know that when I look at all of these issues, they seem overwhelming to me. I wonder what kind of a difference a logging company or one person can make on the national scene. This is where you, as loggers and family members, can connect with your local professional logger associations and also support the American Loggers Council on the national level! As the men and women who run logging companies or loggers who work for logging companies, we can’t always do it alone. It takes the support of others outside the logging and forestry industries and all the loggers throughout the country to make a difference in Washington, D.C. Without the support of my wife, Betsy, my son, Kirk, our employees and the several groups of great people in other supportive industries, such as John Deere, supporting the American Loggers Council, I would not have been able to make the trip to Washington, D.C. to tell our story as a logging family who are small business owners. If we don’t try to make a difference today, generations of logging families will continue to go out of business and we will continue to lose years and years of experience in the woods. If, as American citizens and loggers, we do not try to change things in our country, then many of the rights we have taken for granted for years, could be gone before we realize what has happened. This is a frightening fact that we must contend with now, whether we like it or not.
I would personally urge you to get involved and stay involved with the political process at the local level, the state level and the national level whenever you can. I know that these past several years have been some of the toughest our industry has faced. But, as we begin to come back from this huge blow to the nation’s economy, I would tell you to take the lead in all discussions that you can and on any level of our government that you can when it comes to what YOU do to serve our nation and the world-LOG! It WILL make a difference for the future generations of loggers and logging companies and the future of our country.
Remember to vote this November and, above all, stay involved in the political process. You will see that it does make a difference to our great industry in the years to come. I have been both proud and humbled to represent our industry whenever I can. I thank you for supporting me in doing so these past years. Now, let us all move forward, knowing that we can not only survive, but thrive in what we love to do! May God bless each of you and our great industry!