Forestry: No Plaid, No Poulan, No Problem

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
News from the Field, January 1997

Forestry: No Plaid, No Poulan, No Problem

Stuck in the doldrums, American loggers take a lesson from the Swedes
By Daniel D'Ambrosio

Training loggers used to be a simple affair: Here's a chainsaw; there's a tree. Approach it from this angle and you probably won't kill yourself.

Happily, that may all be over. This month, the Forestry Training Center in Forks, Washington, funded in part by a Department of Labor grant, will be teaching its second group of professional loggers the hallowed, ecologically sound Swedish method, in which students must not only master low-impact logging, but must do so in natty blue stretch pants and green tunics.

The notion for the center sprouted two years ago, when Peter Schiess and Chad Oliver, both University of Washington forestry professors, found themselves groping for remedies to the industry's sickly state. They discovered that the Swedes had experienced a similar malaise in the 1950s, their loggers hampered by diminishing resources and outdated practices. The method since adopted in Sweden and now by the training center combines sophisticated thinning techniques with the use of a bizarre-looking "processor" that's designed to tread lightly across the wilderness while the saw mounted atop its 27-foot boom fells selected trees.

Certainly the approach seems well and good--as witnessed by the fact that both environmentalists and logging companies have embraced the center. So all that remains is one, ahem, pressing question: Why the slick duds? "People reflect the way they dress," answers school director Al Agrignon. "If you dress professionally, you'll act professionally."

Copyright 1997, Outside magazine

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