From: Timber Harvesting Editors

In a move designed to raise the bar on professionalism and build a standalone marketing brand, leaders of the American Loggers Council (ALC) in late July voted to invest in the reinvigoration of its Master Logger Certification (MLC) program, a third-party chain of custody process that has been adopted in some states and put on the back burner in others.

Adopted by the ALC in 2000 and based on a model created by the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC), the MLC program today is recognized in 18 states and three foreign countries. However, the program has been activated in only a few states, but logger proponents contend it is working in their favor and is the wave of the future in a globally competitive world.

Speaking on behalf of the program, Maine Master Logger Andy Irish said he was one of the first loggers to achieve MLC status in the state and pointed out that the distinction works in many positive ways for his business. “In the big picture perspective, MLC is more about developing a program (that will enable us) to take back our industry. We can do the same thing the beef industry has done. We’ve got to stand together; we must unite.”

Other MLC proponents said it is time for loggers to become “proactive versus reactive,” to get ahead of the anticipated requirement of third-party certification with a logger-designed program. One logger referred to current mill-mandated SFI logger requirements as essentially meaningless. “It was crammed down our throat. It was short-sighted. We go along to get along. SFI has no teeth. There is no punishment for violators.”

ALC Executive Vice President Danny Dructor stated: “For too long, professional timber harvesters have had others outside of the timber harvesting realm dictating to them what sustainable harvesting practices should look like. We do not know what the outcome of this program will be, or the benefits, if any, but what we do know is that for the past 100-plus years we have been doing business in the same manner with the same results, and unless we as an industry are willing to make changes, it is a guarantee that nothing will change in the procurement process.”

The MLC program was discussed in ALC’s spring board meeting in Washington in April, where it was decided that a proposal to enliven it would be voted up or down at its July board meeting, which took place at the Caterpillar Forest Products Training Center in Opelika, Ala. After much discussion, the board voted to accept a proposal by the PLC designed to grow the MLC and make the brand more accepted throughout the country to benefit loggers—an outgrowth of ALC’s five-year strategic plan adopted in 2016.

To do this, the ALC will essentially contract with the PLC and/or its companion organization, the Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands (TCNEF), which will provide administrative support to the ALC with three goals: 1) reformulate the MLC subcommittee to standardize the MLC; 2) standardize the marketing and branding of MLC; and 3) provide technical support and outreach to states. These goals, when completed, will theoretically unify MLC within the ALC ranks and gain MLC recognition nationally as a partner in sustainable forest practices.

Participation in the program will remain voluntary, and it is up to respective state organizations to determine just how they implement the program and what costs, if any, might be incurred, according to Dructor.

First year cost of the project to ALC is an estimated $50,000.

Caterpillar hosted the meeting, providing facilities, receptions, meals and bus transportation to its forest products machine plant at nearby LaGrange, Ga. and hosting an equipment demo near its training facility.