FORT KENT, Maine — A St. John Valley man is among three loggers statewide recognized this year by the Certified Logging Professionals program.
John Ouellette of Fort Kent is this year’s Mechanical Logger of the Year, named during the organization’s annual banquet earlier this month in Bangor.
Joining him were Kurt Burrill of Canaan, who was named Conventional Logger of the Year, and Duane Jordan of Waltham, named Contractor-Supervisor of the Year.
Mechanical harvesters cut timber with mechanized equipment such as grapple skidders, feller bunchers, delimbers and loaders.
Conventional harvesters use chain saws and cable skidders.
Founded in 1991, the CLP program is a cooperative among loggers, landowners, environmental specialists and safety consultants working toward maintaining professional standards among workers in the Maine woods.
Sponsored by the Maine TREE Foundation, the CLP’s original and primary goal was to combat a high rate of logging-related accidents and corresponding elevated workers’ compensation fees.
CLP candidates must complete 32 hours of workshop training and pass a site evaluation.
Today there are about 1,600 CLP loggers statewide.
“I would say the majority of the loggers in Maine are certified under the program,” said Mike St. Peter, program manager. “Reducing injury and illness in the workplace is key, and a byproduct of that are the lower worker comp rates.”
In fact, those rates for a CLP logger are half those of an equally qualified non-CLP logger, St. Peter said.
Beyond the safety aspects, St. Peter said, the program also focuses on improving harvesting practices in the Maine woods through better comprehension of harvesting laws, improved environmental compliance and following best management practices.
“For the most part loggers are very understanding of what’s going on around them,” St. Peter said. “Going through the CLP training can help them see why a landowner might want a woodlot harvested in a particular way.”
Sherry Huber, executive director of the Maine TREE Foundation, has high praise for the CLP program and its logging professionals.
“We feel it is important the loggers take pride in their profession and become as proficient as they can be,” Huber said. “These folks are very important in the chain of logging in getting wood from the forest to the point it becomes a product.”
Ouellette has worked in the Maine woods since 1978, going from cutting by chain saw to using modern heavy equipment to harvest timber.
“I like it, and today it’s not hard work like before,” Ouellette said. “There are more long days, but the work is not as physical as it used to be.”
Ouellette, who works for Fish River Logging of Fort Kent, received his CLP certification in 1993.
“It really improved my woodcutting,” he said. “Now we are safer and know a lot more of what we are doing and why we do it instead of just trying to throw down a tree.”
Each of the three loggers of the year received a plaque, a jacket and $1,000.
Burrill, a CLP logger since 1996, is a third-generation logger working for Franklin Forest Products Inc., and was honored for his use of best management practices in yard location while maintaining proper water flow for brooks and streams.
“We continue to face challenges in our industry and expect more to come,” said Justin Merrill, vice chairman of the CLP board of directors. “One thing that remains the same is that CLP loggers continue to supply the forest products industry with a vast amount of fiber for the pulp and paper, solid wood industries, and cogenera-tion facilities. CLP loggers continue to make our work safer, productive and environmentally sound.”