Shawn Keough is an Idaho
Senator as well as the Executive Director of the Associated Logging Contractors,
Issues for Idaho Loggers
Ergonomics, Clinton's Roadless
Plan, Hours of
Service Trucking Rules, ICBEMP, possible EPA permitting
of timber harvest activities, Canadian
imports, rising fuel prices, rising insurance costs, rising
operating costs, lower logging rates, logger certification
- the list of issues facing loggers today is fairly overwhelming.
Taken as a block of issues, the outlook for
the logging business these days can be downright
gloomy. Taken one at a time, though, perhaps there is a
light at the end of the tunnel.
With the change in the Oval Office, and the new
administration being put into place by the President,
several of the issues with the potential to critically
impact on us are on hold. The proposed ergonomics
rule is one of those issues. The rule - as proposed -
would have had a significant impact on us in part
because it was so vague and in part because it didn't
really apply to our industry. As often happens when a
blanket "one size fits all" approach is taken to a perceived
problem, some situations just don't fit. Logging
is one of those industries that really didn't seem to
belong under this rule. Although we've been exempted
from similar requirements in the past, this time the
bureaucrats tried to rope us in and didn't listen to our
testimony or even try to understand our day-to-day
operations. The rule has now been pulled back. If it's
reworked and moves forward again, perhaps the new
administration will take a closer look.
The proposed "Hours of Service Rules" on trucking
has taken a course similar to that of the ergonomics rule.
Once again we were included where in the past we've
been exempted. Once again our day-to-day operations
and the differences between over-the-road trucking
operations and the logging industry were ignored. Our
efforts to communicate the differences seemed to be
falling on deaf ears. With the election of President Bush
and the new administration, that proposal has gone
back to the drawing board too.
Judge Edward Lodge gave us a ray of sunshine when
he ruled in favor of an injunction on the Clinton administration's
Roadless Proposal. Ruling on a lawsuit brought
by the state of Idaho and others, he awarded the injunction
to hold off implementation of the rule. Judge
Lodge's ruling basically said that the administration had
broken the law surrounding the public participation
process. At the writing of this column, the environmental
community has filed an appeal, the Bush administration
hasn't, and other states, organizations, and individuals
are filing lawsuits across the country against the rule.
Knowing that people continue to use and demand the
products for which we supply the base material should
give us confidence that there will always be a logging
industry in the northwest. Once we reaffirm that confidence
to ourselves, it is important to find the energy to
write the next letter, attend the next meeting, and continue
to provide input to those making the decisions about
how we operate. The key to making sure we actually
reach the end of the tunnel - and want to still be in the
logging business - is to continue active involvement in
the issues that impact our ability to do business.
It is critical that we continue to work with federal
and state agencies. On the federal level, I've heard
reports from our friends that a definite change in attitudes
has been detected. The bureaucrats actually
appear to want to hear what we have to say and want
our input. That marks a great move toward change, but
one we need to continue. We need to stay in contact and
make sure they know who to call if they have a question
about how rules or laws they propose will impact us.
We also need to continue our work with elected officials,
from the ground up. Those folks answer to us at
the ballot box. Although we may not be a huge voting
block in the national political scheme, we can definitely
sway an election. If you have seen the maps generated
after the Presidential election, you know what I mean.
Rural America can provide a significant vote that can tip
the balance one way or another. If we stay home, we tip
it against us, if we get out and vote and take our friends
with us, we can tip it in our favor. This is also true at the
state and local level. A new effort along these lines has
been launched, and you can find out about it on the
Internet at www.ruralvoters.org or by calling the League
of Rural Voters, Inc. in Montana at 406-287-3012.
The bottom line here is that although things look
fairly depressing today, tomorrow is looking brighter. If
we keep doing what we know works; in the woods, in
our businesses, in our communities, with our bureaucrats,
and with our elected leaders, we can and will survive
into the next century.
Now if we can only get higher logging rates . . .
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