April 5, 1999 | By: Mark Eclov

Harvesting and processing saw timber is a big industry in Kentucky, but it could be much more profitable, especially in eastern Kentucky where half the forested acreage is located.

The state's master logger training program has the potential to dramatically improve this financial picture and simultaneously improve the Commonwealth's water quality and forest environment.

"Primarily because our Kentucky woods are not properly managed, they are currently worth roughly about a fourth of their potential value," said Jeff Stringer, Extension forester in the UK College of Agriculture.

In an average year, it is estimated that over one billion board feet of timber are harvested in Kentucky. The average value to landowners of what is currently being harvested just by master loggers is around 58 million dollars.

The master logger program gets to the core of what is needed to improve Kentucky's forested acreage.

"It boils down to understanding how to care for the woods and the recognition that what you do in the timber harvesting process today is going to affect the future timber crop," said Stringer.

"All loggers should have the training, " said Rod Maggard, who manages Phistan Incorporated, a logging company based out of Hyden, Kentucky.

He practices what he preaches. Maggard's entire logging crew, including drivers, has been through the master logger program.

"It helps in several different ways. Landowners see what we are doing out here with the things we have learned and it makes it a lot easier to buy tracks of timber, "said Maggard. "The safety training helped us save money related to worker's compensation."

Maggard and his crew are well ahead of the game. The recently established forest conservation act states that, as of July 15, 2000, there must be someone on the site of every commercial logging operation in the state that has completed the Kentucky Master Logger Program.

"It became apparent that there was a real need for trying to professionalize the logging industry. We have long had education programs in place for various aspects of farming & many other industries, but the master logger's program recognizes that we had a bunch of people out there affecting a lot of acres that had no professional support," he said.

Stringer estimated that there are between 2,000 and 3,000 logging firms employing more than 9,000 individuals in the state. As of the end of 1998, 1,590 of those individuals had completed the three-day training course.

The workshops teach safety and management techniques that protect the logger, the young trees that are left for future harvests and the entire forest environment .

The program begins with a day of training devoted to CPR and first aid. The second day includes indoor and outdoor discussions and demonstrations of best management practices related to water quality protection and timber sustainability. The final day focuses on OSHA regulations and safety issues on the logging site, chain saw safety and felling.

Twenty such training programs are being offered in seven different regional sites around the state this year. Instructors from University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, the Kentucky Division of Forestry and the Kentucky Forest Industry are pooling their resources and expertise to conduct the training.

"Our workshops are located to allow loggers to get to a training site within a couple of hours of travel," said Stringer.

Workshop participants take home more than a certificate.

"Hopefully this training will cause our loggers to pay more attention how their operations are conducted. At the same time, we hope we pass on a respect for forest sustainability and water quality protection," said Stringer.

A master logger program information hotline is available at 1-800-859-6006. Information on the upcoming training sessions is also available from local and regional offices of the Kentucky Division of Forestry and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service.

Contact: 

Writer: Mark Eclov
(606) -257-7223

Source: Jeff Stringer
(606) 257-5994