In Defense of Logging and Loggers
By Daryl L. Hunter

There have been few characters of American folklore with the stature of Paul Bunyon. This legendary hero of an earlier day possessed strength, speed, and skill that matched the vastness of North America. According to legend, Paul Bunyan and his giant blue ox, Babe, left many a mark on the landscape, receiving credit for creating Puget Sound, the Grand Canyon, and the Black Hills, among others. A lumberjack hero admired by all who read or heard of him.

On the third, full weekend of June Encampment Wyoming hosts the annual Rocky Mountain Champion Lumberjack Completion where loggers come from all over the country to compete for the coveted title. Chips fly during this competition using chain saws, axes and hand saws, the men and women competitors cut down trees competing in events that include: Tree Felling, two-man handsaw tree felling, two-man handsaw, two-woman handsaw, power saw log bucking, one-man handsaw, man & woman handsaw team, choker setting, axe chopping, pole throw, axe throw, power saw log bucking, power saw log bucking, and the mad loggers chainsaw throw.

It is refreshing to hear that this proud profession is still celebrated despite vilification by America’s tree huggers who have turned a blind eye to their need for timber products in their crusade to reserve our forests for the Bark Beetle and fire.

Scientists and forest managers continue to tell us proactive forest management is a solution for overcrowded, unhealthy, and fire-prone forests. Thinning and logging reduces fuels and can make wildfires far less devastating while making mountain communities far safer. But some refuse to listen.
Estranged Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore in his effort to bring sanity to the debate has published Pacific Spirit: The Forest Reborn, and Greenspirit: Trees Are the Answer, two books that bring science and ecology to the discussion on the importance of using the forest resources in a pragmatic and responsible way. Moore says that, above all, sensible environmentalists rely on scientific evidence. They believe in compromise and cooperation, and work hard to find constructive solutions to real issues. A tactic his former colleagues of the environmental movement find hard to swallow.

Proof that Patrick Moore’s approach is bearing fruit is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), a comprehensive system of principles, objectives and performance measures developed by foresters, conservationists, and scientists that combine the perpetual growing and harvesting of trees with the long-term protection of wildlife, plants, soil and water quality. There are currently over 150 million acres of forestland (equaling 24 Yellowstones) in North America enrolled in the SFI program, making it among the world's largest sustainable forestry programs.

Here in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming it is a shame that logging has come to a screeching halt. Due to our overabundance of squeaky wheels here in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem our forests are being managed for recreation only. This has triggered the death of our forest products industry which dates back to the time of our settlers.

Throughout the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National forests vast stands of bug-killed trees are increasingly visible. Our recent draughts have made our trees susceptible to Bark Beetle infestation. Decreased tree moisture prevents the manufacture of tree sap which is the trees protection from Bark Beetle infestation. Our draught has abated for now but we are still left with millions of bug-killed trees and a thriving population of Bark Beetles seeking another opportunity for exponential growth during our next dry spell.

When we choose not to log our forests, by default we are choosing to look at burnt forests instead. Vast stands of dead timber are fires waiting to happen and when they do vast stands of health forest will burn with them.
Trees of our national forests are a natural resource. When a tree is cut down, we plant another. Renewability makes the forest different from many other resources. Since 1950, nearly 95 million acres has been replanted nation wide. Since then Western timber resources have increased each year. Properly managed, forests will last forever, while still supplying the wood products we all need. It’s a never-ending sustainable cycle.

Whoever wins the Rocky Mountain Champion Lumberjack Completion has achieved an accomplishment that Paul Bunyon would be proud of. All who compete can be proud of keeping a fine tradition alive. All who have the tenacity to carry on the honorable tradition of logging in our woods deserve our gratitude for risking life and limb to harvest products we need and making our forest homes a safer place, not our wrath for harvesting products we need and making our forest homes a safer place.

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