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The Lumberjack harvesting timber in a forest.

Counterpoint: In Support of Loggers

By Stephen King

In our October issue, my fellow writer, Jim Duke talked about logging. He was a bit upset about the fact that where logging occurs, it makes a mess. As well, after they are done, they leave stumps behind, sometimes right beside the Trail.

Now, first off, I want to state that I have the utmost respect for Mr. Duke. He has a record in Snowmobiling that has earned him a spot in the Snowmobile Hall of Fame.  And, I personally respect him for all that he has done for Snowmobiling.  And, unlike our National counterparts, I believe that we can differ a bit on issues, while still supporting and wanting the best for Snowmobiling. Therefore, on this, while I have the greatest respect for Mr. Duke, I chose to differ with him on this. Rather than be critical of loggers, I feel we need to do what we can to support them.  And, thank them.

The reason that I say this is that in the U.P., where both Jim and I live and ride, about 25-30% of the Trails are on Corporate Land. And, a good part of this land belongs to the Logging Companies. There is a really good chance that if you have ridden the Trails in the U.P., you have ridden over Trails that cross their lands.

Now, on this, a good portion of the land is called “CFA” land.  This is short for “Commercial Forest Act.” This Program designates land that people own that the State makes an agreement with. The land owner agrees to allow access to the land in return for lower taxes. However, many people chose to misinterpret that to mean that this also includes “vehicle access.”  It does not. It only guarantees access by foot.  

For example, if there is a lake or stream you want to go to to fish. You are allowed. However, if there is no road into that lake or stream, then, you have to walk.  There is nothing in this agreement that allows people to use motorized vehicles to access those areas.

Now, quite often, in the U.P., there are vast tracts of land that are owned by big companies. Most of them logging companies. On most of these lands, the landowners, do allow vehicles to access them. On existing two track roads, and sometimes even trails.  However, they do this out of good will. They are not required to do this.

Now, as for snowmobiling, I can say for a fact that in general, we are just a pain in the rear for loggers. However, for some reason, the Loggers still tend to support us. 

On this, I recently talked with Jim Maeder. Jim is the current President of the Timbermen’s Association. One of the things Jim stated was, “Loggers really tend to support snowmobilers. Part of that is because a lot of loggers also ride. Many of us get off the job and head out on our sleds. So, the Trails are important to us, as well.”

But, Jim also stated, “But, one thing a lot of snowmobilers don’t realize is that this is how we earn our living. A lot of snowmobilers are from the urban areas. They don’t realize how important the forest products industry is. One of the things that comes to mind is like this past spring, when everyone was hoarding toilet paper. We used to joke, “If you don’t like loggers, try using plastic toilet paper.”  

Jim said that jokingly. But, it is also true. A good many of the products we use comes from trees. Like, all of the varieties of paper. Like toilet paper. And, the paper in this magazine.

Plus, for those of you that live in a house, the wooden 2X4s and other studs did not come from the plant down the street. They grew out in a forest.  Then, a logger cut down that tree. It was transported, cut into boards, trucked to a store, and then sold to the builder. This involved a lot of people. A lot of people who made money from that tree.

Now, personally, I spent a good portion of about 30-40 years on the end of a chain saw. I cut down trees. Five or six hours a day. Five or six days a week. This is what I did for a living. During that time, I also did other things, like own a restaurant, own a flea market, fish commercial, and other things, like writing and taking pictures. But, I also cut a lot of wood each year. Like, in the winter, when the restaurant slowed down, I would grab the saw and head to the bush.

Now, when I talked to Jim, I told him a story about a job I was working on. We were cutting way back in the bush. The last two or three miles was on a road that we made. Not a real road. Also, this job could only be done in the winter, because the ground was to muddy to cross over in the summer.

I recall, going home, at the end of the day, and quite often meeting sleds. We had signs up. It was dead end. Ended at our job. There was just enough room for one vehicle. Meeting anything was a pain. Still, a few times a week, I met sleds. Was not thrilled.

Now, Jim also noted, “A lot of snowmobilers also don’t know that in many areas, especially on State land, we have to shut down on December 1st. The Official start of Snowmobiling Season. It doesn’t matter if we are done with that job or not. Our contract says we cannot cut there after that date.  This is fine, for snowmobilers. But, this is how we make a living.”

Also, Jim is from Lower Michigan, the Land Down Under the Bridge. Me? I live on the Upper side of Life. Up here, like I alluded to in my story, a lot of places can only be cut in the winter. This is due to a variety of reasons. But, the usual one is that it is a swampy area and has to be cut when the ground is frozen.

For those areas, signs are put up. Precautions are taken. Sometimes a temporary reroute is done.  But, no matter how hard both the DNR and loggers work, there will always be places where logging is happening during the winter.

On this, logging is a very messy business. Also, there are many people that would love to see logging shut down. Just as there are a lot of people that would love to see snowmobiling shut down. They point at things like recently cut areas.

And, even as a former lumberjack, I will agree that a recently cut area is ugly. It looks totally devastated. But, what people don’t see is that same area, a few years later. The young growth, the new trees, all the plants, and animals, and birds that live there.

Jim and I both noted, “We don’t need to cut all the trees. There is nothing wrong with leaving a few areas, to preserve some of the Old Growth areas. But, Old Growth areas are like a desert underneath. Very little grows there. There is not much to eat for the animals. You will see very few deer, or other wildlife. They like newer growth. Young forests have a much more diverse selection of life than Old Growth.”

Then, Jim also pointed out, “A lot of people are pointing at the West right now, and all of those forest fires. That is a good example of bad forest management. For many decades, they have stopped the logging and stopped the forest fires. This has allowed the fuel to really build up. Like, take a cup of gasoline, light a match to it. It goes “poof.”  Take a 50-gallon drum and light a match to it, and you better run. This is what bad forest management does. It allows fuel to build up and makes the forest fires much worse.”

Now, I could go on and on about this. I have lived my entire life “in the bush”. Either fishing commercial, logging, or just living among the people that do this for a living. Years ago, unregulated commercial fishing devastated the fish population. Unregulated logging devastated our forests. Today, we talk about “sustainable” logging and “sustainable” commercial fishing.

In fishing, we have limits and seasons to make sure there is a stable, and usually growing fish population. For logging, we have forest management in which some areas are left “natural.” And, some areas are planted, managed, and then harvested.

As a society, trees are an important resource. We use them for many purposes. So, the forest industry is needed. Back to that toilet paper thing: do you want to plant and harvest a tree to make paper, and get young forests that are full of life? Or, drill a well and get oil, to make plastic? Think about that one, you tree huggers. 

As Snowmobilers, there are a lot of people out there that would love to see Loggers banished. Now, for me, I cannot see ticking off a good friend for no reason.  Loggers are one of the best friends snowmobilers have. We need to realize that.

Another person I talked to was DNR U.P. Trails Coordinator Ron Yesney. He stated, “About 25-30% of the Trails in the U.P. are across Corporate Land. They do not have to allow Snowmobilers to cross them. Snowmobilers need to realize that they need to work with the loggers. Because, if they do not, many of the Trails will just disappear.”

Now, when you are out sledding this winter. You will probably see loggers. If you do, be careful. Ron also told me of stories of sledders riding under a bucket full of logs, while a driver was loading a truck. Not a good idea. And, a few other stories.  

So, be careful. When you see a sign saying “Logging in Area” be aware, there may be debris in the Trail. And, you may meet trucks, or heavy equipment. Just a fact.

But, if you don’t like this, and want to complain, you will fix the problem. You won’t have to put up with this any more. Because, they will just get tired of our whining and close the Trails. Is that what you really want? 

So, when you see loggers, give them a “thumbs up.” Just to make sure they know we are good friends and support them.

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