Philomath students participate in the crosscut-sawing competition Feb. 24 in Eugene. (Photo provided by Rex Lowther via Oregon Logging Conference)

Philomath High School took first place in the Future Forestry Workers Career Day logging and forestry skills competition Feb. 24 at the 85th annual Oregon Logging Conference.

Staged at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene, the logging and forestry skills competition included students from five high school forestry clubs competing in activities that included cable splicing, choker setting, crosscut and single buck sawing, compass and pacing, tool identification, log scaling, and ax throwing.

The skills competition has been part of the Oregon Logging Conference for more than 25 years.

Philomath High School’s forestry students took first place in the logging and forestry skills competition Feb. 24 at Future Forestry Workers Career Day in Eugene. (Photo provided by Rex Lowther via Oregon Logging Conference)

Finishing behind first-place Philomath was Sweet Home in second, La Pine in third and Scio in fourth.

The fifth annual Future Forestry Workers Career Day brought in nearly 300 high school students from 14 Oregons. Officials said a higher number of students and schools had signed up to attend but were forced to cancel due to bad weather. 

The students interacted with industry professionals and learned about job opportunities and careers in sawmills, reforestation, truck driving, equipment operation, welding and diesel mechanics. 

Students also had an opportunity to use virtual timber harvesting technology, provided by the Oregon State University Forestry Department.

Conference attendance up

Inclement weather impacted on-site attendance at the Feb. 23-25 Oregon Logging Conference but overall, organizers said preregistered attendance was up 18% and exhibitor participation was up 17% over last year.

“The icy weather caused only minor challenges for those planning to attend the 85th OLC,” said Rikki Wellman, conference manager, adding, “many still came out to review the latest technology in logging equipment.”

Oregon Logging Conference President Craig Olson said the theme, “Green Trees Matter. Healthy Forests = Healthy Future” reflected the importance of the industry.

“Our keynote speaker Travis Joseph and the many panels and seminars all touched on topics impacting our industry, the importance of forests and the products that are provided,” he said.

Joseph stressed the importance of telling the truth about logging and the wood products industry. He called it a big lie — the concept of logger versus environmentalist, with loggers destroying the forest and only it for the money and environmentalists protecting the forests and saving the planet.

Not only a lie, Joseph said, but a perception with “dangerous implications on communities, forests, the environment, and the future.”

“You are the people who provide all the products, materials and services we all depend on everyday of our lives,” Joseph told the gathering. “We have to stop letting ourselves be bullied about environmentalism by a bunch of hypocrites and celebrities.”

Joseph asked everyone in the room to get involved.

“We’re in this together,” he said. “No one can be sitting on the sidelines right now. Let’s keep fighting, let’s keep working together, let’s not give up, we can change this.”

The 85th annual Oregon Logging Conference took place Feb. 23-25 at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene. (Photo by Mary Bullwinkel/Oregon Logging Conference)

Fundraisers for firefighters, scholarships

Conference officials reported that more than $15,000 was raised for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, which provides support for families who have lost loved ones fighting wildland fires. 

The foundation was established after the loss of 14 firefighters in 1994 at Storm King Mountain in the South Canyon Fire in Colorado. Founder Vicki Minor and several family members of those fallen firefighters attended the luncheon.

Minor told the gathering, “These families helped create this foundation and it has helped these families learn how to live again.” 

During the first two days of the conference, $27,000 was raised through an auction. The money will be deposited in the Oregon Logging Conference Foundation scholarship program. OLCF expressed its appreciation to all donors, winning bidders, auctioneer Jaime Yraguen of Basco Logging, and Will Garrett and other volunteers from Radiator Supply House. 

Other events, activities at the 3-day event

Topics of current interest were discussed with many of those attending earning professional logger credits to stay certified and up to date on several issues.

“The Oregon Logging Conference was packed with unique opportunities for forestry and natural resource professionals to network and learn more about their trades,” Wellman said.

In the log loader competition, Bryan Chipps of Green Diamond Resource Company in Humboldt County, California, took first place with a time of 4:05.00. Second place went to Zane Bryant of Bryant Logging in Beaver Creek (4:15:37) and third went to Ross Cribbs of Black Rock Timber in Dallas (4:48.15).

The log loader competition proves to be a popular event at the Oregon Logging Conference. (Photo by Mary Bullwinkel/Oregon Logging Conference)

The event tests the skills of log loader operators through demonstrations of speed, skill and efficiency. Operating a Link-Belt log loader, contestants have 7 minutes to stack log blocks end-to-end, matching numbers or colors on predetermined marks on the ground.

Jay Messerle of Messerle & Sons Logging in Coos Bay and Mike Edwards of the road building engineering department at Lone Rock Timber in Roseburg won guess the net scale contests.

The conference reported a good turnout for the conference’s Family Day on Feb. 25. Family Day activities included bird house building, live wildlife, face painting and educational displays.

The Talk About Trees dinner/auction attracted 480 people with the event reporting gross proceeds of over $150,000 will help support OWIT’s Talk About Trees forest education program, which is offered free to prekindergarten through eighth-grade students. 

Organizers said next year’s Oregon Logging Conference has been set for Feb. 22-24 at the Lane Event Center and Fairgrounds in Eugene.