Michigan’s timber industry celebrates 20 years of loggers’ education

Since 1994, over 2,500 individuals have participated in core loggers’ training programs offered in Michigan.

Training participants inspecting a permitted stream crossing as part of a SFE field day in Baraga County. Photo credit: Michael Schira l MSU Extension

Training participants inspecting a permitted stream crossing as part of a SFE field day in Baraga County. Photo credit: Michael Schira l MSU Extension

Since 1994, logging industry professionals in Michigan have voluntarily participated in specialized “loggers education courses.” These training efforts are part of a nationwide movement aimed at creating safe working conditions for wood workers, while giving them a better understanding of forest ecology and the need for water quality protection.

Loggers Education grew its roots in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. The UNCED heightened the world’s awareness of impending global environmental issues, including climatic changes, deforestation and the growing scarcity for fresh water.

One policy recommendation that came from the UNCED conference was the Statement of Forest Principals which details the need for sustainable management of the world’s forest resources. As a result of these concerns, the Loggers Education to Advance Professionalism (LEAP) program was offered for the logging industry in Michigan in 1994. The program was funded by a federal grant and was developed by Michigan State University Extension with the support of the Michigan forest products industry.

LEAP training was facilitated by volunteer professionals around the state. The Michigan Association of Timbermen (MAT), in partnership with MSU Extension, hosted the sessions. In the first two years of the training, over 500 individual logging contractors and woods workers participated. The training included segments on forest ecology and forest management with a combined classroom/field day format.

Complementing the state-level LEAP trainings, the forest products industry answered the need for greater environmental awareness at the national level by developing and adopting the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Included in the Initiative was the requirement for the industry to procure wood from “trained loggers.”

The LEAP program was enhanced in 1996 to come into compliance with the new SFI guidelines for loggers training by adding modules on Loggers Safety and water quality protection. This is known in the industry as Best Management Practices (This newly BMP). The revamped training was renamed Sustainable Forestry Education (SFE). Administrated and facilitated by MSU Extension, this program is now fully funded by the Michigan forest products industry.

Along with the original SFE Core program, loggers in Michigan began participating once again in annual education programming in 1999. These one-day education sessions have been designed to reinforce and expand the environmental and safety lessons highlighted in Core training. Beginning in 2005, the Michigan Forest Products Council took the lead in offering trainings around the state.

Since 1994, over 2,500 individuals have participated in the Core loggers training programs offered in Michigan. It is the hope of the Michigan Forest Products Council that these educational effort will continue to insure the sustainability of Michigan’s forest and water resources for another 20 years and beyond.

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