MILLINOCKET, Maine — It is, at least according to stereotypes, an unlikely pairing: A traditional logging company working with one of the nation’s largest environmental preservationist groups.
Yet The Nature Conservancy and the Pelletier family will be featured at 10 p.m. this Friday on the Discovery Channel’s “American Loggers” reality TV show as the Pelletiers cut trees from several acres of Nature Conservancy land in the St. John Forest near the Quebec border in the bitter January cold.
Bill Patterson, The Nature Conservancy’s northern Maine program manager, said he found himself a somewhat improbable TV star during the two minutes or so that his group’s efforts are featured.
“I have to admit that I have seen a sneak preview of it,” Patterson said Tuesday. “I got it right, I think. It’s reality but it’s not live and that makes a big difference. I knew if I would have tripped over a log or something they hopefully would have shown me some mercy and not put it on TV.”
Eldon and Rudy Pelletier, the leaders of the family and co-stars of the show, did not immediately return several telephone calls placed Tuesday.
The show, Patterson said, hopefully will help correct a misconception, one that dates back to the late 1990s, when The Nature Conservancy’s purchase of the 178,000-acre St. John Forest raised forest products industry fears that soon such groups would lock off huge tracts of land and starve its industry of its primary fuel.
“Looking back, there was a lot of apprehension on the part of the forestry industry up here when the deal closed,” said Jim O’Malley, a forester for Huber Resources Corp. who works with Nature Conservancy staff to manage the property and appears in the episode.
The forestry industry saw organizations like The Nature Conservancy “as groups that complained to the government about how forests were managed. Now, the industry respects that the Conservancy works like businesses do — they buy the land themselves and manage it,” O’Malley said in a statement.
State forestry officials say that more wood is available and harvested in Maine now than ever before. Yet there is some truth to the stereotype: Wood clearing is not allowed in about a third of The Nature Conservancy’s St. John land, though the rest is managed forestry in various stages of growth, said Misty Edgecomb, a Nature Conservancy spokeswoman.
Preservation of wildlife and fauna, not forestry, is the group’s primary concern, and its forestry efforts help pay for the group’s preservation efforts — a nice balance, Nature Conservancy officials say.
Another stereotyped view the show could help correct, Nature Conservancy officials say, is that loggers are destructive to the lands they harvest. It is hoped that the show will illustrate how loggers such as the Pelletiers work to preserve and enhance forest growth.
Though the publicity of a national show is welcome, The Nature Conservancy didn’t hire the Pelletiers to get on the show. Huber Resources Corp. has employed the Pelletiers as a subcontractor for at least two years, Patterson said.
Since the show’s debut, the Pelletiers have branched into several businesses, including a restaurant and laundromat in Millinocket, an insurance business, and a logging truck-bed manufacturing business.
The family also has helped the region by helping organize a truck and tractor pull, motorcycle events, volunteering to help revitalize Jerry Pond and by leading efforts to build Katahdin region ATV trails that will connect to a statewide ATV network and, organizers hope, bring to the area profits like those gleaned by the region’s snowmobile trade.
This article has been updated to correct the time the show will air. It is 10 p.m., not 9 p.m.