Twenty years ago, in 1994, a small group of professional loggers took a bold step and formed an organization called the American Loggers Council. The coalescing issue that led them to the formation of the Council was the roll-out in that same year of the Sustainable Forestry Initiatives® Program. It would seem while others were designing programs that would have direct impacts on logging businesses, those same people and organizations forgot to ask what the loggers themselves thought about the program and its impact on loggers. These early leaders of the American Loggers Council thought that it was time that the loggers had a national, unified voice on these issues.
A mission statement for the ALC was formed and simply states:
The American Loggers Council is a national organization representing independent loggers formed to enhance the logging profession, provide a unified voice on logging issues, and cooperate with public, industrial, and private timberland owners to further sustainable forestry practices.
One of the primary goals of the strategic plan for the ALC is to enhance the professionalism of logging. This includes taking a proactive stance on issues of industry concern, improving relationships between mills and loggers, and promoting the perception of the industry. For the past twenty years, the ALC has promoted logger training and education programs to not only help loggers better understand the relationship that exists between their operations and the environment, but to also help to positively influence the public’s perception of sustainable timber harvesting operations.
Unfortunately, as in any profession, there continues to be those few rogue operators who chose to ignore both statutory and voluntary regulations within the industry, yet seem to be able to deliver their products to SFI® participating mills at the same price as those who are meeting the standards. It is hard for those who are “getting it right” to compete with those who are not even trying. There are costs associated with the performance measures of the SFI® program, and for the most part, those costs are still being absorbed by the timber harvesting businesses themselves.
After twenty years and several SFI® program standard revisions, there is still discussion around what should be the maximum amount of wood fiber that is procured by SFI® participants that is sourced from untrained loggers. Most logging businesses had one to two years to get into compliance with the LT&E requirements before they were told they might not be able to deliver their products. Industry has now had twenty years to try and reach 100% compliance, yet they still are looking to include language in the standard revision process that would allow them to “strive to accept” no more than 5% of their fiber from untrained loggers. Strive is a five letter word that give industry an out if they are not meeting the percentage of the standard. What would happen to your business during a OSHA audit if you “strived” to get your employees trained without ever actually doing it, or you strived to meet DOT regulations while hauling overweight loads?
We feel that it is time to level the playing field. Competing with loggers who are not in compliance with the SFI required logger training and education program, or who are not following federal and state mandated policies, yet still being offered a home for their production from an SFI® program participant (mill) is unacceptable to those getting it right. If this process is allowed to continue, those who are operating above the laws and regulations that govern this industry will set the bar for the rest of us to compete against and not only will the sustainability of the industry falter, but so will the perception of our industry in the eyes of the public. After twenty years of “striving,” the program participants should be getting it right.
The American Loggers Council is a non-profit 501(c) (6) corporation representing professional timber harvesters in 30 states across the US. For more information, visit their web site at www.americanloggers.org or contact their office at 409-625-0206.