Perception is complex constructions of simple elements joined through association and is subject to the influence of learning. Perception can result from a catastrophic event or a description provided by someone you trust.
When it comes to professional timber harvesters, perception is all over the board. Absent education, a bad or false perception will linger forever. There are many people in this country that would be content if trees were never harvested again; they are comfortable in their perception that boards come from the lumber yards, not from the forest.
The United States has more forested acres today than 100 years ago; this can be credited to many factors including our industries interest in sustainability. Few people understand this and education is needed to change this perception. Our industry has done a poor job of educating the public whether by word or deed. During this same period the environmental industry has done a great job distorting the facts and fueling their coffers on people’s emotions.
If in fact environmental standards were the leading factor governing fiber purchase, the public would demand a halt to fiber importation into this country. The general public seems to like the idea of the regulatory environment we are burdened with as they approve of all these layers of Government oversight. The market place proves that they are equally concerned with the cost of the products we produce. This leaves our industry trying to figure out how to cover the cost associated with these regulations and continue to compete in a worldwide market. Many simple things can be done to help the public better understand how our industry supplies fiber to the market place in an environmentally sound manner. The public needs to recognize we operate under the most stringent rules anywhere in the world.
Loggers are stubborn people, overly optimistic, and for some odd reason relish doing things others say can’t be done. Forty years ago working harder could bring about positive results, but that is not necessarily true anymore. Loggers today spend too much time concerned with where the next job will come from, instead of what all businesses should be concerned with, whether or not it makes good business sense to take it. Our concern over “surviving” until the next job or logging season distract us from the real need to educate the public in order to retain our “social” license to operate.
Perception can be influenced through education and it is up to us because we understand what it takes to harvest timber in this country. First, we need to insure that our fellow loggers all have the best business tools to deal with the environment we are working in. Second the timber harvesting community needs to educate everyone we come in contact with on exactly what it is that we do, the quality of our work, and the reasons we do it. No one else is going to do this for us, so we must be proactive when it comes to educating others and don’t let these opportunities slip by. We, after all, are the ones that cut down the trees, making it is easy to point a finger at us and call us the bad guys. The public needs to understand that we do it while meeting burdensome environmental regulations and all of the other associated rules and regulations that go into operating a business in this country. We are a lucky industry because we work with renewable resources that if managed correctly will be around forever, not all industries can say the same.
With the holidays upon us I hope it gives the timber harvesting community time to think about where our industry is, and where we are going. I hope that consideration will be given to educating others this coming year on exactly what it is we do out in the woods each and every day. We can be a community that cuts down trees or we can be a dedicated industry of environmental stewards working hard to sustain a renewable resource and provide jobs that ensure livelihoods to families and communities. Perception means a lot to children and adults seeking more information on this subject and we need to do a better job of educating everyone, including those we work for, on what it is we do.
Myles Anderson is the current President of the American Loggers Council and he and his father Mike own and operate Anderson Logging, Inc. based out of Fort Bragg, CA.