There is a feeling of comfort for people working in a natural resource industry that is derived from being outdoors and distant from the urban chaos that rules many of our lives today. In spite of some of us being out of our comfort zone, the American Loggers Council (ALC) Board of Directors once again made its annual trip to Washington DC. Although feeling slightly out of place on initial trips to the Hill, it soon became apparent that Congressional members and staff rarely get the unique opportunity to hear our concerns and passions expressed personally on our way of life and our livelihoods.
A trip to Washington, D.C. is as amazing and fulfilling as it is frustrating. Building relationships with Representatives or their staff (which seems more productive at times) gets you involved with the process that impacts your daily life and ability to provide a livelihood for your family and employees. Some we met with gave the appearance of being interested; while others are truly concerned with the direction we are headed. Some even shared information that left you asking why, how, or can they be serious?
One staff member we met with spoke about Congress being very inactive, yet we have seen a lot of activity coming out of this administration, basically leaving discussion and openness out of due process.
One thing was very clear at our meetings this year at the Capitol — everything there is at a standstill. Both sides of the aisle have agreed to disagree on pretty much everything, which is to be expected when control is split in an election year. The positive is that we should not see a bunch of new legislation coming out that could add more layers or rules and regulations. The lack of meaningful accomplishment seems to prevail in Washington.
There is still the issue of dealing with the quagmire of rules Congress has already handed down that should warrant both their and our attention. Many had hoped the large class of freshman elected to Congress last year would create some positive change, but are finding that “change” is loosely defined these days.
I encourage everyone to contact their local representatives, state legislators and congressional representatives and use any other available venue to make your issues heard. It is our duty as citizens to be a part of the process as pointed out by a fellow logger and passionate ALC Board member
Richard Schwab from Florida when he stated, “After all, we hire the representatives and if they are not doing their job we should fire them and hire someone who will.” While some would applaud sending Congress home until after the election due to inaction, we would all be better off to re-read the constitution and consider how it has guided us to this point and start adhering to it. A quick read of the United States Constitution would demonstrate how our founding fathers talked almost as much about impeachment as they did legislative duties.
The American Loggers Council delegation accomplished 30 Senate office visits and 73 House office visits over a two day period. During the trip, the group also had small groups meet with Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, DOT/FMSCA, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, the House Committee on Natural Resources and other Senate and House Committees important to our issues. ALC members had State specific issues that they conveyed to their representatives while everyone at all meetings carried the national issues brought forward by the ALC.
One thing that became very clear from our meetings on the Hill was that Congress and the Administration have seemingly run out of options for funding rural parts of America dependent on and surrounded by a paralyzed Forest Service. Schools and Communities in the West are about to lose their income from the general fund that was a replacement for revenue from timber sales lost to environmental policies, lawsuits and management decisions that shut down the Forest Service. When the Forest Service’s ability to harvest timber and extract other resources ground to a halt, so was their ability to help fund those communities whose tax base contains large allotments of federal land ownership.
With appropriations for this year tied to a stalled Transportation Bill, I hope that schools and communities come together with the logging industry to move forward to promote a green, sustainable future that involves extracting resources and value from federal lands. We hear a lot about job creation, bailouts, and green energy, and our industry has the resources to provide revenue by managing federal forest lands. We are not asking Congress to give away money to our industry, just allow us to do our jobs. After all, isn’t this what the majority of citizens are asking for? This is where we could see real change as rural resource providers, if we stand up together and are heard.
To clear up any misconceptions, if you are in the logging profession and are a member of one of the 30 state associations that make up the American Loggers Council, then you are a member of the ALC and should be proud of the efforts this group makes during the annual trip to Washington DC. The issues that we carry on a continual basis and new ones as they come along can be seen prominently displayed on the ALC website and I strongly urge you to take a moment to see the newly revamped site at www.americanloggers.org.
I encourage all loggers across the nation to join your state logging association and become active in these and other issues. Get to know the people that are out fighting these fights on your behalf and join with them. Through the American Loggers Council, I have had the opportunity to meet loggers from all over the nation and better appreciate their determination, passion and the honor they put into supporting this industry and I hope that others trying to make a living in this industry do the same.
Myles Anderson with Anderson Logging Inc. is a 4th generation logger from Fort Bragg, CA. and is currently serving on the Executive Committee for the American Loggers Council.
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.