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Timber Industry Faces Shortage of Log Truckers

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From The Forestry Source, August 2019. © 2019, The Society of American Foresters   Timber Industry Faces Shortage of Log Truckers   By Steve Wilent The first item listed in the Forest Resources Association’s June 27 Southcentral and Southeastern Regions Activity Report was startling: “It is estimated that the truck driver shortage is resulting in a 10% to 15% loss of logging production currently. Multiple industries compete for drivers, and good, reliable trucking is very expensive.” Rick Meyer, Appalachian and southwide regions manager for the association, said that the production- loss figures are anecdotal, but very real. “I would say that just about every logging or trucking contractor that I’ve talked with who has, say, five trucks or more, has had at least one of those trucks idled at one time or another over the past year due to the driver shortage,” Meyer said. “For the majority of our members all across the country, trucking challenges are their number one issue by far, both from the logging end and probably from the mill as well.” The shortage of drivers in the US is affecting all industries that rely on trucking. A March 2, 2019, article in Fortune, “America’s Trucker Shortage Is About to Hit Consumers Where It Hurts,” notes that US companies “are sounding the alarm that higher freight fees could be passed on to consumers of everything from Crest toothpaste to Arm & Hammer cat litter to My Little Pony figurines. And it’s all because transport companies can’t find drivers.” In the forest-products industry,…

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October 22 – 26, 2019 is Forest Products Week

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OCTOBER 22-26, 2019 IS IDAHO FOREST PRODUCTS WEEK IDAHO – (October 11, 2019) Governor Brad Little has formally proclaimed the week of October 22-26, 2019 to be Idaho Forest Products Week. “The Idaho Forest Products Industry plays an essential part of the state’s history, culture, environment and economy,” said Governor Little. “It also plays an essential role as a fundamental industry to the State of Idaho, providing for the production of wood and paper products from Idaho forests.” Idaho has 21.5 million acres of forest land spanning from the Canadian border to the southern edge of the state. Over 40% of Idaho is covered in trees. Idaho’s forest sector is one of Idaho’s leading trade sectors, contributing more than $2 billion to the state’s gross and state product, providing 30,000 jobs, and generating more than $3 billion in sales and $25 million in tax revenue. “Sustainable forest management under the Idaho Forest Practices Act provides countless benefits, including clean air and water, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, scenic beauty, local renewable energy, forest products used by Idahoans every day, and employment and tax revenue for local communities, counties and the state of Idaho,” said Little. Wood is widely recognized as renewable, recyclable, durable, versatile and energy efficient green building materials. Products from sustainably managed forests play a critical role in combating climate change due to natural process of photosynthesis where trees absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, release oxygen into the atmosphere and capture carbon, which is stored in wood products for the life of…

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Bringing the St. Regis Mill into the Family

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Idaho Forest Group acquired the St. Regis (MT) mill in December 2017. The mill was old and outdated, but a hidden gem. With commitment, hard work, and heart from managers and employees around the company, St. Regis has made impressive strides improving organization, efficiency, and safety. IFG has a strong and unwavering commitment to safety at our mills, physically making sure operations are safe and training team members in protocols to prevent and deal with accidents, should they happen. Our first project was ensuring the St. Regis mill was safe for IFG employees. The mill has also been transformed to improve workflow and efficiency. For example, 6 million board feet of log decks were mixed-species when IFG came in. Those logs have now been sorted by species. A sprinkler system that uses water from a recirculation pond is being constructed to catch and reuse irrigation water. The team identified outdated and inefficient machinery, redesigned log flow, and purchased new equipment to improve output. Next, we’ll be changing the mill from a 9’ multiple mill to an 8’ mill to meet growing demand from the home center market. We are grateful to the community of St. Regis for a warm welcome and hope to continue to make progress on projects that will improve quality of life around the mill, like those we’ve already completed to reduce emissions, mitigate dust, and start a new apprenticeship program for residents.

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Log Truck Drivers Needed

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Manufacturing lumber involves a lot more than just milling wood. It involves sourcing logs, transporting the logs, manufacturing products, finding suitable markets, and transporting the products to the markets. All of these tasks require people to do the work. A labor shortage has become a major concern for many industries in the U.S. and truck driver positions are one of the most common jobs to go unfilled. According to the American Trucking Association the United States is projected to be short 175,000 truck drivers by 2026.  Log truck driving companies are already feeling the effects of this shortage in Idaho and Montana. Driving a log truck takes experience and special skills beyond those common to CDL licensed drivers. There are few formal training options anywhere in the country, and none located nearby. Schools have typically been underused because they require a significant financial investment and a log truck certification is not generally required to work in the industry. It’s likely, that given this lack of training availability, there are people who are interested in learning about driving a log truck but don’t feel confident in making a commitment (purchase of equipment) without some understanding of what the job entails. In 2018 over 143,000 log trucks delivered logs to Idaho Forest Group’s (IFG) mills.  Timely delivery to mill after the harvest of these logs is crucial to our operations.  Logs that sit at forest sites too long lose value, are attractants for pests, hold up payments to landowners, and are potential fire hazards. As fire threat…

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Prichard Creek Restoration

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Idaho Forest Group  always aims to have a positive impact in the communities in which we operate from sponsoring youth sports teams, to volunteering at educational events, to donating to local charities; we invest in our homes.  One of these investments is just starting to take shape, will live on in perpetuity for everyone. In 2014, Idaho Forest Group (IFG) purchased nearly 2,000 acres of the Prichard Creek stream and bordering forestland from a single private landowner. Prichard Creek flows down from the Montana border passing the historic town of Murray and draining into the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River. Its entire length once served as cold water refuge from the summer heat, for bull trout and cutthroat trout. Around the turn of the 20th century, the creek was mined for gold using an in-stream floating dredge that removed thousands of tons of sediment from the creek bed and leaving large piles of rocks bordering it. These operations have changed the shape of the creek leaving decreased riparian vegetation, eroding banks, sediment loading into the water, decreased sinuosity, and a three-mile stretch that flows subsurface during the summer months. Prichard’s waters are very cold and have relatively high water quality. Almost all of the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River has been impacted by mining and development.  Prichard Creek stands out as “low hanging fruit” in the basin for potential restoration because the water quality is decent, the waters are cold, and it is mostly surrounded by public lands. IFG saw an…

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Shared Stewardship in Idaho

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Wildfire isn’t the only threat facing Idaho’s forests. According to the National Insect and Disease Risk Map, Idaho leads the country in the number of treed acres at risk of high rates of mortality from insect and disease by 2027. For every 1 cubic foot of wood harvested, 3 cubic feet die in our forests. High mortality rates lead to reduced carbon sequestration, increased wildfire risk and pose a threat to Idaho’s forest products industry and the jobs it supports in our rural communities. With 6.1 million acres at risk in Idaho, there’s a lot of work to do. In July, Governor Little announced two priority areas, encompassing over 4 million acres. Idaho Forest Group operates within these areas and is committed to supporting individual projects by sharing technology and data, adjusting capacity to meet demand, and lending expertise wherever needed. In December 2018, Idaho signed the nation’s first Shared Stewardship agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, pledging to double the number of acres treated to reduce wildfire risk and improve the health of our ailing forests. The concept of the Shared Stewardship policy is to allow states to define priorities and manage projects across land ownerships, utilizing collaborative decision-making that involves land managers and land users throughout the process. This agreement shaped a collaboration between Idaho Department of Lands and USFS Regions 1 and 4 to reduce fuels and wildfire threats around communities; create and sustain jobs; and improve the health and resiliency of the forest. The Idaho-USFS Shared Stewardship Agreement promises to double the annual acres…

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