ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) – Farmers aren’t the only ones being hurt by unfavorable weather, rising fuel costs and tough market conditions for their products. Northern New England’s logging industry is hurting as well.

A very wet spring and early summer, which has prevented many loggers from getting into the woods, follow an unusually warm winter in which the ground didn’t freeze enough to get heavy equipment to winter logging jobs.

“I haven’t had a decent week in the woods since last August,” said Mike Lemieux, who heads his family’s St. Johnsbury-based logging business. “There’s very few people working at all right now because it has been so wet.”

Craig Clukay, owner of Treeline Timber in Jefferson, N.H., estimates his production has dropped about 35 percent due to a variety of factors, including the weather, overseas competition and the recent closure of the pulp and paper mills in northern New Hampshire.

Trying to log in wet weather causes muddy ruts that turn into wetlands, Clukay said.

“That’s just not acceptable by anyone’s standards,” he said Monday. “So that means shutdown time, and it means employees are not able to work.

“About the only thing you can do is to try to shift lots. Where you have a piece of land that might be more rocky than others, or sandier, those tend to dry out faster and be more foregiving.”

When loggers suffer, the mills that take their products do as well, said Jane Currier, general manager at the Greenwood Mill in Sutton. She said her mill may have to resort to layoffs if it can’t get some logs delivered soon.

“How much longer can loggers withstand this?” Currier asked. “How long can they stand having equipment idle?”

Weather and financial woes faced by farmers, especially dairy farmers, have been getting a lot of attention lately. Gov. James Douglas last week held a special dairy summit and promised $8.6 million in assistance to farmers.

It’s been different for the logging industry.

“The timber industry needs better recognition as an important component of our local economy,” said Ed Larson, the executive director of the Vermont Forest Products Association. “There’s a general lack of knowledge of the industry.”

Steve Sinclair, director of forests for the state Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, said about 100 Vermont sawmills have gone out of business in the last several years. More mechanization has meant the state lumber production has gone up, though.

In addition to higher fuel costs, the timber industry also is facing sharply higher costs for unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance.

Those who make a living moving logs are hurting along with the loggers and mills, say people in the industry.

Logging trucks often get four or five miles to the gallon, and with diesel prices running between $2.89 and $2.95 a gallon recently,

“I’ve gone up on my rates but I feel guilty about charging them,” said Acklin Humphrey of Sheffield, who owns two 18-wheel logging trucks. “You have to, or you’ll go out of business.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.