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Cold And Snow A Boon For Loggers

VPR/John Dillon
A truck belonging to Chaloux Brothers loads logs at a job in Middlesex.

March’s long stretch of cold, snowy weather is not just a skier and snowmobiler’s delight; it’s a boon for loggers.

The weather has extended the busiest time of year for many who work in the woods.

“The winter is really their bread and butter. That’s when they’re out there with major production,” says Steve Sinclair, the Director of Forests with the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.

Sinclair says usually the winter logging season winds down around Town Meeting day, but frozen ground and snow cover have made it possible to keep the heavy equipment operating in the woods.

“The snow pack is protecting the sites, and then the freezing temperatures are able to freeze up their access roads and skid roads and it’s easier for them to get around. This has extended far beyond everyone’s expectation,” he says.

Sinclair says cold conditions also provide loggers with a better opportunity to harvest some species that grow in wetter areas.  In the case of White Pine, the quality of the wood is degraded when it is harvested under warmer conditions. 

He says log prices have risen since the recession as the home construction industry recovers. He says a seasonal demand from mills building up inventory before spring weather arrives also boosts prices.

There are a few down sides to the weather. For those who log the conventional way with chainsaws, there’s been a lot of shoveling to clear around trees.

That’s not an issue for mechanized, whole-tree harvesters.  

According to a recent report about 3,200 Vermonters are employed in forestry, logging, trucking and lumber manufacturing. The number has fallen from a peak in the late 1990s. 

Sinclair says the amount of wood harvested and turned into lumber hasn’t declined, though.  That’s because mills are larger and the output of mechanized operations has grown.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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