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Louisiana foresters prepare for improving economy

Louisiana Forestry Association

The head of the Louisiana Forestry Association says the state’s timber industry is poised for growth. Buck Vandersteen told foresters this month that international firms are looking to set up facilities in Louisiana. It comes at a time when home builders in this country are starting construction at pre-recessionary levels. Vandersteen said this translates into excellent opportunities for loggers. As such, he said, the Central Louisiana Technical Community College campus in Winnfield will launch a timber harvesting equipment operator training program in the coming months.

“Hopefully, that will manifest itself in getting people trained, getting the logging force built up so that as demand rises we’ll have enough people out there in the woods who will be able to harvest the timber and get it to the mills," Vandersteen said.

Increasingly, international companies demand that  timber come from sustainably managed forests. Vandersteen said timberland owners and loggers alike are seeking out certification programs. The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry just completed a verification survey, he said, and found nearly all the logging sites they visited are compliant with the state’s best management practices.

"When we started doing this back in the late ‘80s, we were at 10 percent compliance, and you can see how that has grown over the years," Vandersteen said. "We’re kind of stuck at the 96 percent acceptance, and I guess that means you’ll always find one out there who doesn’t do exactly right.”

Estimates are the timber industry lost about 300 veteran loggers during the Great Recession.