March 2007 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
New Brunswick’s Lee Johnston feels that the Atlantic Master Logger (AML) certification his company has attained is a wise investment in his company’s future and reflects the way the industry is headed.
By George Fullerton
Lee Johnston grew up on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick and, not surprisingly, working in the forest came naturally to him. Lee began his forestry career working for his father Tom’s contract harvesting business.
After graduating from the Maritime Forest Ranger School, Lee continued to work in the family business as a logging foreman. In 1968, he started up his own business providing high grade hardwood silviculture and harvesting services.
Following Tom’s retirement in 1973, Lee integrated the two harvesting operations and in 1982 added some diversification by taking on planting contracts with Repap (Miramichi).
Today, Lee Johnston Ltd offers a full basket of forestry services, from planting and pre-commercial thinning through to roadbuilding and contract harvesting for several forestry companies in eastern and northwestern New Brunswick, as well as on private land.
Through contracts with the major forestry companies in New Brunswick, Lee Johnston Ltd has worked within several certification initiatives, including ISO and Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI).
So when the Canadian Woodlands Forum began to develop their Atlantic Master Logger Certification Program (AML), Lee looked at the program and decided that AML certification would benefit his business—and he jumped into the program. He was in the first group of thirteen contractors to gain certification in 2005.
Lee says that Master Logger status provides his company with two important benefits. “First, the certification sets us apart from other forestry contracting companies. The way we do things has been scrutinized by a third party and determined to have achieved a specific standard. Secondly, the certification opens doors. It shows current and potential clients that we are certified and that we are accountable for the quality of the forestry work that we do. That gives our clients a level of confidence that the work we do will be done to a recognizable standard.”
Currently, the Lee Johnston operation consists of four 15-person planting crews and four 15-person precommercial thinning crews, a mechanized subcontractor with a Komatsu 200LC excavator and D6 dozer for road building and a Komatsu 200LC harvester conversion with LogMax 6000 head and a Timberjack 610 forwarder.
Silviculture has been a good way to diversify and grow the forestry business— it has provided security for periods when the harvesting side of forestry goes into decline. Looking back over the past couple of years of depressed wood markets is enough to assure Lee that diversification was the right move.
The 7,000-acre planting and 4,000- acre pre-commercial thinning operations are supervised by Valaire Doiron, a third generation employee with the Johnston family. Doiron came to Lee Johnston Ltd after a career in the New Brunswick mining industry.
All workers and sub-contractors receive mandatory annual training including First Aid, WHMIS and SFI training. Most of the silviculture workers have completed the silviculture course offered through the Miramichi Community College. Pre-commercial thinning workers also have the opportunity to participate in map and compass, and saw operation and maintenance courses.
In order to maintain AML certification, employees must continually participate in forestry training, workplace and safety training and upgrading.
Roland Robichaud is Johnston’s logging and road building foreman, overseeing annual production and transport of 20,000 cubic metres from forest company UPM and up to 10,000 cubic metres from private lands. Subcontractor Greg Shaddick Trucking Ltd carries out the harvesting and forwarding and road building work. Annually, they construct 50 kilometres for UPM in addition to what is required for private woodlot operations.
Lee Johnston credits his wife, Carol— who possesses strong accounting and administrative skills—as a critical partner in the contracting business. “Carol plays a very important role in the company and is a key advisor for me,” says Lee.
Barb (McFarlane) Svarc holds a degree in forest engineering and works closely with Lee and Carol in the office. Svarc also led the AML application process and currently administers the AML certification as well as assisting Lee in overseeing harvesting operations, cruising and woodlot management plans for client landowners. Carol and Barb jointly administer silviculture work including invoicing, record keeping and payroll.
Barb points out that although certification did not require any substantial changes to administration or workplace practices, they did adopt some data collection and record keeping strategies outlined by the AML certification process. “It took a fair bit of effort to review our bookkeeping and record keeping practices and ensure they were in line with Master Logger requirements. Basically we were doing and recording what Master Logger required, but we had to adjust and tweak our record keeping to meet Master Logger criteria. In fact, the changes we made to meet Master Logger have streamlined the way we work and keep records,” says Barb.
Barb says that their annual training (safety, WHMIS, First Aid) for both the silviculture and logging workers covers the requirements of both AML and SFI (forestry company) certification.
For their harvesting operations, Lee Johnston Ltd keeps detailed records for every private land harvest contract they carry out. Documentation includes owner contact information, maps and aerial (and sometimes operational) photos with water and wetland buffers, cruise data, road building or upgrade data, boundary line status report, harvest summary including products and markets, and, finally, any specific operations close-out details. Every private land file also includes a timetable for follow-up silviculture or future harvest.
Barb explains that the Shaddick operators are very supportive of the certification efforts, with every operator taking personal responsibility to do the best possible job and adhering to environmental and safety guidelines.
“The operators make the extra effort, like looking out for unique wildlife habitat attributes, such as raptor nests and small feeder streams, and will unilaterally create buffers if they were missed in the harvest planning and layout stage,” she explains.
Although the comprehensive harvest planning and documentation has a related cost, Barb points out that most woodlot owners embrace the opportunity for their woodlot, and want to learn more about wildlife habitats and the potential for managing immature stands for enhanced timber production.
“Woodlot owners recognize and respect our approach to management. It is very rewarding to see people get excited about growing wood and providing wildlife habitats.”
Lee Johnston Ltd’s Atlantic Master Logger certification began in June 2005 with an application, followed by an interview with AML program ambassador Peter Robichaud. It provided the opportunity for a detailed review of the AML program standards.
Following the application, Barb began readying business records and field work records in preparation for an audit by two independent field verifiers (from Nova Scotia) appointed by the AML. The field verifiers made separate visits to the Lee Johnston Ltd offices and scrutinized business records, including records of harvest operations. Each of the verifiers randomly chose a number of past forestry operations for field visits to evaluate the quality of the work and compatibility with sustainable forestry guidelines.
Barb says that the verifiers evaluated the forestry operations in a range of areas including harvest planning, water and soil qualities sustainability, forest ecosystem, forest esthetics, safety and legal compliance and, finally, harvest operation close-out and follow-up.
Prior to submission of their application to the AML Certification Board, Lee and Barb had one last opportunity to review and confirm the application was in order. The submission of the application was completed with Lee signing a release, and also signing the AML Code of Ethics which recognizes their professional commitment to adhere to Master Logger standards.
The application was submitted and evaluated by the AML Certification Board and the certification was granted in the fall of 2005. Lee explains that the certification is granted for a period of three years, but they remain subject to a random audit which may be conducted at any time in the three-year period. Lee says that although certification recognizes that his operations have attained a very high standard, the AML program wants loggers to strive for continual improvement.
Barb says that Atlantic Master Logger certification brings a high degree of professionalism to Lee Johnston Ltd, and that is being recognized by the forest companies they work for. “The professional accreditation through Master Logger is a very good marketing tool for Lee Johnston Ltd, whether we are working for multinational companies or purchasing stumpage from private woodlot owners. Woodlot owners, like large companies, look for assurance that contractors are professional, and that they practise responsible forestry and follow good business ethics. Certification helps show that we meet that test.”
Lee admits that voluntary certification with the Atlantic Master Logger Certification Program had significant direct (application) costs, along with a significant time investment by his employees. But he adds that he believes it is a wise investment. Lee only has to look upriver to the UPM mill in Miramichi, which is committed to seeing their entire wood supply produced under some form of green certification.
“Time Inc is UPM’s biggest customer and Time has made a commitment to their customers that the paper used to publish their 145 magazines is sourced from forestry operations that are certified as sustainable. Master Logger certification helps ensure that we will have continued market access to UPM and we fully expect that other mills will have similar requirements in the not too distant future. With Master Logger, we are ready to meet the certification challenge.”
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Monday, August 06, 2007