Maine loggers rue balmy temps, rain

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BANGOR (AP) – The persistent warm weather and rainfall is taking a toll on logging operations around Maine that have experienced shutdowns and are losing time getting the wood out of the woods and to the mills.

The high temperatures and rains have resulted in soft roads and watery woodlands that have made it difficult, if not impossible, to cut trees and transport the logs to mills.

Cold weather and snow would help, but what has been lost in time and money cannot be recovered, loggers say.

Things are so bad that Andy Dumais, a veteran logging trucker from Madawaska, bought trailers for his logging trucks so he could haul freight over paved roads, rather than logs over dirt roads that have been too soft to drive. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

When the weather is warm and rainy, rather than cold and snowy, logging operations in Maine’s woods can come to standstill. The woodlands are too muddy to run skidders and other heavy equipment. Roads remain soft when temperatures fail to fall low enough to freeze them hard, making them unusable by heavy logging trucks.

The problem isn’t limited to northern Maine. Loggers statewide are feeling the pinch.

Duane Jordan of Ellsworth, the third generation of Elliot Jordan and Sons Inc., works the woods on private and public lands off Routes 1 and 9 in eastern Maine. “These stretches of warm weather are not normal, and we are losing time,” Jordan said. “This is the second year in a row we’ve had the wet fall and moderately warm weather.

“We need cold weather, and a stretch of it. It’s becoming a big issue for us.” When loggers can’t work the woods, they still have to meet loan payments on their heavy machinery, payroll expenses and other costs.

The weather is hard not only on roads and forest environment, it’s also been hard on equipment, so maintenance costs rise, Dumais said.

“It just does not make sense,” he said. “It’s kind of a time when we take three steps forward and five steps backward the last three months.”

An estimated 2,500 people work in the Maine logging industry in any given month, with a high of 2,800 coming in January and February, according to the state Department of Labor. The employment figures drop to below 2,000 during the spring mud season, when logging slows down statewide and comes to a near standstill in northern Maine.

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