By Matt Jensen, ALC President
The American Loggers Council Washington DC fly-in and spring Board of Directors meeting has come and gone for 2011. The trip to our nation’s capital was very well attended by many active, dedicated loggers and state association executives from across the country. Our ALC members had a full schedule of congressional visits.
With a large new crop of freshman Congressman and Senators this year, there seemed to be a different tone in Washington. The federal budget cuts impasse between the Democrats and the Republicans was taking place at the time of our visits. Ironically, the issues ALC brought to the hill and the timing of our appointments seemed to be well received. I think the Congressmen, Senators, and their staffers welcomed the conversation about something other than the budget battle.
One of the highlights of my Wisconsin congressional visits was our meeting with freshman Congressman Reid Ribble and his Legislative Director Paul Bleiberg. Mr. Ribble brings much needed experience in congress from the private business sector along with a long history of involvement in his community. Knowing what it takes to make a payroll and a profit is more important than ever when it comes to pro- business policy making in Washington.
Speaking with the Congressman about federal forest timber sales was of great interest to him because of the amount of federal land and timber related jobs in his district. He told us that he has had some meetings with U.S. Forest personnel and suggested that someone from ALC testify at a hearing when federal timber issues are discussed. He felt it was more important Congress hear from actual people affected by their policy.
On the Friday afternoon session of our DC trip, John Deere hosted a great meeting at the National Association of Manufacturers Offices. Congressman Ribble addressed ALC members and others. He spoke about national forest issues, the out of control federal budget, and the EPA’s overreaching regulations on American business. Each of the ALC members in attendance were able to introduce themselves and express their comments and questions. Some of the finest loggers in the country made an impression on the Congressman that he won’t soon forget, expressing their concerns collectively about the federal timber program, the development of biomass related jobs, transportation issues and the EPA’s ability to regulate almost anyone out of business. ALC members conveyed to the Congressman they weren’t looking for a handout, just the ability to run their businesses in a profitable manner.
The power of the EPA’s regulatory policy without approval from Congress has created and will continue to create great uncertainty for all industry in the U.S. There were many other great speakers at our meeting, but the other speaker that caught all of our attention was the presentation by Bill Kovacs, Vice President of Environment and Regulatory Affairs with the US Chamber of Commerce. He shared statistics of the number of business and energy projects being litigated by environmental organizations and the impact that was having on the US economy. It didn’t seem to matter whether the ventures were “green projects” or not, they were all subject to litigation. Mr. Kovacs also informed us how environmental groups had a 50,000 plus page playbook of laws, regulations, and personal findings to litigate against almost any project or timber sale.
One of the most alarming details Mr. Kovacs shared was to find out these environmental groups and their attorneys are recovering their costs of litigation whether they win or lose at basically an unlimited budget from the federal government. This astounding policy is allowing these groups to make a very nice living with no “skin in the game” at the cost to the American taxpayer and businesses. This policy must change.
In my opinion, with the great job the people at John Deere did putting together a very interesting and informative Friday session along with our hill visits, this was one of my best DC meetings to date. To all of you at John Deere, your rock solid support and commitment to us at the American Loggers Council is immeasurable. All I can say is thank you, and thank you to all of our ALC members who took time away from their businesses and families to try and make a difference in the logging industry. It is the American Loggers Council’s ongoing challenge to continue to bring value to our industry, our members and supporting partners like John Deere. It is truly an honor to be a part of this organization.
Matt Jensen is the President of the American Loggers Council, which represents over 50,000 logging professionals in 30 states. Matt’s operation, Whitetail Logging, is headquartered in Crandon, Wisconsin. For more information please contact the American Loggers Council office at 409-625-0206 or e-mail at email@example.com.