AUGUSTA, ME – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine issued a statement today in support of Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador’s reintroduction of the Future Logging Careers Act. The Future Logging Careers Act would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to allow 16 and 17 year olds to work in mechanized logging operations under parental supervision.
“Timber harvesting has a long and storied history in the State of Maine,” said Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC). Doran added, “it is a legacy industry in Maine consisting of family based businesses that have been passed down from generation to generation which are responsible for over 7,000 jobs and the contribution of $882 million annually to the Maine economy. The Future Logging Careers Act will ensure that family based businesses in the State of Maine can sustain themselves for the long term. Congressman Poliquin should be applauded for his leadership on this issue because without common-sense legislation like this, the future of this industry will continue to be at risk.”
Over 90 percent of timber harvesting in Maine is conducted with sophisticated mechanized equipment. The logging business itself has grown increasingly complex due to its recognition that it must be both production oriented, environmentally conscious and extremely safe. These factors make it essential for young men and women in family logging operations to learn the business and the equipment prior to the age of 18 to be successful. However, young men and women in families that own and operate timber harvesting companies are currently denied the opportunity to work and learn the family trade until they reach adulthood.
Other agricultural businesses, including farms and ranches, enjoy exemptions to existing child labor laws that permit family members between the ages of 16 and 17 to participate in and safely learn the operations of the family businesses under the direction and supervision of their parents.
The Future Logging Careers Act would address this issue. It is supported by over 30 logging industry groups and companies, including the American Loggers Council (ALC), a non-profit organization of which PLC is a member and which represents timber harvesters in 30 states.
The PLC first worked with Congressman Poliquin to draft and introduce legislation to address the exemption issue in 2014 and 2015 under the Securing America’s Next Generation of Safe Loggers and Truckers Act. The intent and language of that act was similar to that of the Future Logging Careers Act first introduced in March of 2015 by Rep. Labrador.
The PLC is grateful to Congressman Poliquin for his support on this issue and on other matters of importance to Maine’s logging industry.
The PLC considers the challenge of encouraging and training young people to enter the increasingly complex logging and trucking industries a top priority and has spearheaded multiple efforts to address it.
Despite some drop in the overall number of logging and trucking jobs in Maine due to a series of market contractions in recent years, Maine is rapidly approaching a retirement “cliff” for operators of sophisticated mechanized logging equipment, with many of these workers nearing or past retirement age.
Training new operators to replace these workers is critical to the survival of the logging industry and that is why the PLC strongly supports high school logging programs in Maine, and led efforts to create the new mechanized logging operator training program being launched this year by Maine’s community college system.