Logging industry bogged down by flooding, wet weather

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 4:23 PM EDT
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RANDOLPH, Vt. (WCAX) - Flooding earlier this summer and persistent wet weather are impacting the logging industry.

Sam Lincoln has dealt with many floods over the 25 years he’s logged in Vermont. He says nothing compares to this summer’s aftermath.

“I think this is the worst I’ve ever seen it. 2021 was pretty bad but this is worse for sure, economically it’s far worse,” Lincoln said.

The July floods washed out rural logging roads and continuous showers the rest of the summer mucked up work zones, making it nearly impossible to operate skidders, trucks and other equipment.

Lincoln says the slow going has led to him losing $157,000 in revenue.

“I’m very concerned that if these conditions continue, I’ll be borrowing money to survive,” Lincoln said.

Joe Nelson, a consulting forester, typically oversees six logging projects over the summer. Right now, he’s monitoring only three, a drop in the harvest of upward of 75%.

“On this job, here we should be getting three to four to five loads of wood product out per week and we’ve gotten a total of six since the beginning of July,” Nelson said.

According to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, the state employs more than 9,000 people in the forest products industry and brings in $1.4 billion in sales.

The damp summer doesn’t just impact loggers, it impacts sawmills and the many ventures that rely on wood.

Watershed forester Dave Wilcox says improved infrastructure is part of the solution, including rebuilding roads, bridges, culverts and other washed-out structures that make forests accessible and facilitate drainage. But that will take time.

“We’ve had projects that were contracted and the contractors have already decided because they’re busy doing storm work they can’t get to it until next year,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox says it could take about two years to rebuild forest infrastructure. In the meantime, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is working on temporary fixes and loggers are hoping for a dry fall and winter.