Loggers play an essential role in ensuring the sustainability of forests along with the wood industries that depend on them. Yet, the logging sector faces concerns with recruiting and retaining skilled loggers. On-going work on this emerging topic include continued analysis of past logger survey data, coordination with colleagues in Minnesota, and a project-based course for Spring 2015.
Loggers and logging businesses play key roles in sustaining both Wisconsin’s forests and the wood-using industries that depend on them. Our intent in this summary isn’t to provide a detailed a analysis of the results we’ve posted, as we plan to do that in a separate print publication. However, we would make the following four observations that seem evident in our findings.
After accounting for bad addresses, non-loggers, etc., response rates for both studies were high. The 2003 and 2010 surveys yielded response rates of 59% and 63%, respectively. Of note, the 2003 response rate was for the entire survey, which included both Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
In the 2010 survey, we were particularly interested in loggers’ views of the potential of woody biomass and bioenergy to reshape the logging sector. Our data show that woody biomass for pellets or bioenergy constituted about 2% of overall 2010 volume harvested using mechanized harvest systems that use feller-bunchers and/or harvesters, while less than 0.5% of the volume harvested by those using chainsaws.
Wisconsin’s logging businesses produce a diverse array of forest products, but hardwood pulp has been the largest portion of the volume harvested: 44% in 2003 and 49% in 2010. This dominance reflects continued demand from the region’s substantial pulp and paper industry and an abundant hardwood forest resource. Though Perry (2011) indicated a negative percent change in the volume of aspen on forestland from 2005 to 2010, one of the primary species utilized in the pulp and paper industry. Softwood pulp accounted for around a quarter of volume removed from the la
Various landownership categories contribute to the state’s timber supply. Where a logging business is located has a big impact on which types of lands they harvest from. However, other factors also figure into the decision, including the different expectations that landowners have for loggers (e.g., certified land can have more requirements, but fill an important market niche). In reporting the landownership categories from which loggers harvest timber, we weight all findings by their volume harvested in 2003 and 2010 (as appropriate).
The number and size of timber sales are important measures for understanding both the economics of logging and the effects of harvesting on ecological outcomes such as fragmentation. Economically, smaller timber sales result in higher costs as loggers must move equipment more frequently and spend more time on procuring timber. Ecologically, harvesting operations create new “patches” in the landscape that will have a different age and habitat characteristics compared to the surrounding forests.
Wisconsin is a national leader in forest certification. Certification provides a means by which landowners gain recognition in the marketplace for their efforts to implement and document sustainable forest management practices. There are three primary forest certification systems used in the USA: American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
In 2010 the dominant factor affecting profitability was fuel prices. Loggers require fuel for the equipment that is used to harvest timber and for the trucks to deliver that timber to a mill. Diesel fuel prices doubled from 2003 to 2010 from $1.488 to $2.964 per gallon (US Energy Information Administration). All questions related to travel distances and fuel usage were new to the 2010 questionnaire.
Wisconsin’s logging businesses have increasingly high levels of capital investment, with inflation adjusted (2010 USD) median levels increasing from 2003 to 2010 for all but chainsaw based harvesting systems. We report capital investment in median dollars, as there is quite a large variability in the amount investment both between systems and amongst businesses.