GLTPA's Director's Notes

01/09/2023

Greetings, 

Happy New Year and all the best for a healthy and prosperous 2023!  Change will occur in the coming year and the question is, will it be for better or worse?  Perhaps a better question is how much change will be driven by fear and how much by necessity?

While the office team was sorting through some memorabilia stored at the GLTPA building, they came across an “American Lumberman” publication dated March 24th, 1923.  One of the articles in the document was titled “Big Problems Handled in a Big Way At Annual Meeting.”  The article was in reference to the 21st annual National Lumber Manufacturers Association meeting which was called to order by President J.W. Blodgett.  Mr. Blodgett, a Grand Rapids MI resident, was apparently re-elected as President by the association and was providing his opening remarks.  The following is an excerpt from the article.

“The President’s Address”

President Blodgett in prefacing his formal address said that while reports of department heads would show something of the association’s service to the industry, they could not adequately reflect the watchfulness exercised to protect the legitimate interests of the lumberman. Entering into his report, Mr. Blodgett continued:

“The secretary-manager will in his report cover the chief activities and accomplishments of your organization during the last year. His report together with those of the departmental heads, will give you a general idea of how this association has served the industry which supports it. You cannot, however, gain from these reports any conception of the incessant watchful care involved in protecting our industry against unfair and unjust attacks-many of which, perhaps, arise from ignorance, but which because of lack of animus are even more harmful. For illustration, when the average person sees a tract of logged off land he mentally at least, dubs the operator a vandal and a public enemy. The planter who picks a cotton crop really stands in exactly the same position as the logger. In response to this universal demand, each has supplied a common necessity, one clothing and the other shelter.”

                                                “Progress in Educating Public About Industry”

“The cumulative effect, however, of this thoughtless but adverse sentiment must not be disregarded, as it is always finding expression in the public prints. We must also be continually on guard against the more direct attacks on lumber by snap judgement in adopting building codes, and in fact in all kinds of construction in which we are entitled to a hearing on our merits.

All this means educating the public about our industry, oftimes a seemingly slow and discouraging process, but in which we have made great progress in a comparatively short time. The benefits, in fact the necessities, of this educational work, are beyond question, and the cost is slight indeed, compared to the returns both to the public, and the industry.”

Consider the preceding excerpt written in 1923 and ask yourself how it compares to challenges faced by today’s forest industry.  It is identical.  100 years later and loggers and farmers are still condemned, much of the general population has no idea where food and shelter come from, and government continues passing unneeded regulation based on the emotion of a small, squeaky group of elitists hell-bent on saving the world with their version of reality.  Although I cannot explain it, most elected officials seem to agree with or are simply fearful of the ramifications if they do not go along with this small group whose ideas find their way into public prints.  Nonetheless the opportunity for public education remains as important and perhaps greater than it was 100 years ago.

I have often wondered why U.S. timber companies opted into the certification schemes proposed by the UN back in the mid-nineties and early 2000’s.  The U.S. was already practicing sound forest management and is still doing so today.  From what I can tell the great cutover created an awareness of needed conservation, which in turn started a natural path of implementing forest management practices with great emphasis on sustainability and future generations.  I can’t say for certain, but I’d be willing to bet the money being spent on certification, which the public is in large part, completely unaware of, could have been put to better use doing massive educational campaigns promoting sustainable forest practices.  The forest industry has done a magnificent job finding the balance between sustainable management and meeting the needs of people for everyday life.

Seeing a tv ad like the “Got Milk” campaign would be far more effective with the mass population than a certification label on a 2x4. Next time you go to a local or big box lumber retailer, I encourage, or shall I say dare you to ask anyone in the area if they know what the SFI or FSC label stands for.  I have yet to find a single customer or employee who knows the answer.  I can assure you that before I leave, they will know the answer.  The same is true when purchasing printer paper. Not one person knew what those labels stand for.  Again, I dare you to ask the question. 

That brings us to the next question. Since the public is unaware of the fact what loggers, foresters, truckers, and manufacturers do for the landscape while providing them with life-supporting product, why in the world do we spend so much time defending what we do to this little group of naysayers who place more value on the wolf population than a human life     / Shouldn’t we be staying in constant communications with the everyday purchasers of our products presenting them with the truth about forest management and sustainability? Shouldn’t the forest industry be spending its time and money promoting the good things it provides and forget about spending millions of dollars trying to satisfy a smaller group who will never be satisfied until industry is destroyed?  Seems we have a choice to make and I for one hope it doesn’t take another 100 years to make it.

You may have noticed the word “fear” was mentioned in the first paragraph, and I will expand on the reason why.  An article in the November/December issue of AMAC caught my attention and it was regarding the founder of the association, Daniel Weber, who recently passed away. The article, written by Daniel’s daughter Rebecca, highlights conversations with her father and how he became “Bold as a Lion.” 

“From where do you get your confidence?” Rebecca once asked her father.  “From God” he replied. “He does most of the work. So, I only think on things I can change, and trust God to do the rest.” “Sure,” Rebecca thought. Easy for you, not so easy for me. 

The article continues with examples, questions, and answers on how AMAC has succeeded and then it came to the following paragraphs which seem very relatable to the forest industry, my family’s lifelong industry, my industry, and many of you, the reader’s industry.  

I often wondered, how did Dan flourish amid many setbacks and failures? How did Dan know how to listen to his inner voice, God’s voice-not the voice of the people, many who tried to convince him AMAC would fail? How did one ordinary man with a big idea help change the course of America?  I found out his secret. And I was reminded of it again last month while reading “The Hard Thing about Hard Things” by David Horowitz. Whenever we try something new, for example, (like dropping a certification to engage a mass educational program) conjure up a new idea, share a new idea with friends, or family, restart our career in retirement, fight for justice, stand up for our flag, or oppose those who force us to conform to their beliefs, (the World Economic Forum) fear can hold us back and fear is 75% of the game.   

What is being suggested here is that the American forest industry take its focus off all the certification methods and focus on teaching everyday American consumers, how they are connected to the forests, and the products they depend on daily for life.  If the public really understood logging and forest management, and the difference between regeneration harvests and deforestation, I highly doubt the anti-management groups would stand a chance promoting their un-proven, nonscientific propaganda.

The fear is this, what would the rest of the world think if U.S companies did slowly abandon forest certification schemes to teach the masses about sustainable vegetation management? Like Mr. Webster knew, there’s no reason to listen to the rest of the world.  America has some of the best, multi-use forests in the world, and apart from a large part of scorched California, the results to prove it. There is nothing to fear when the facts are there with trees everywhere you look.  Back in the Mr. Refkin, Time magazine days, I remember very vividly, as do many of my fellow loggers, when we were told in a meeting in Rhinelander WI, certification was going to be the tool to ensure our American forest industry would be the fittest of the fit for survival.  That turned out to be a lie as I can no longer count on two hands the number of mills lost in the Lake States Region let alone the rest of the country.

How about this for a New Year’s resolution, let’s promote logging and sound forest management where the consumers are.  We have the tools, and as for fear, Dan Weber provided the advice to extinguish that.

Until next month, 

Henry 

 

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The Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association (GLTPA)

Provides proven leadership in the Lake States Forest products industry for over 70 years. GLTPA is a non-profit organization proud to represent members in Michigan and Wisconsin and is committed to leading Forest Products Industry in sustainable forest management.

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