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ALC Executive Vice President
Daniel J. Dructor
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P.O. Box 966
Hemphill, TX 75948
T: 409.625.0206
F: 409.625.0207

Changing our image with performance based certification

By Ted Wright, Executive Director, The Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands


Loggers are a proud group of hardworking individuals, and nothing makes a careful and conscientious logger cringe more than seeing sloppy work, hearing stories of landowners being cheated or being treated with skepticism by people inside and outside the industry.  Those loggers know that this damages their reputation just as much as it does the reputation of the logger that is responsible. 


Logging is not the only profession that has good caring professionals along with bad apples that can ruin the bushel.  Physicians, attorneys, electricians, mechanics, plumbers and many others all have ways to distinguish the good from the bad.


There was a time when physicians could simply go to medical school and then go into practice. There was no performance assessment for the specialty they chose to practice. Bad physicians were getting into practice and were making people sick or making critical mistakes that made people fear seeking the help of a physician. In the early 1900’s the majority of physicians knew they needed a profession-led certification to move forward and crack down on those within the profession that were not holding up their end of the bargain. Through the creation of board certification, they were able to remove the bad actors but also improve their image.


This was not done through training programs. It was done by board certification. It was undertaken for many reasons, but improving image, distinguishing excellent practices and driving continuous improvement were all part of it.


The analogy of physicians can be directly related to the logging profession. Logging contractors that invest millions of dollars and run clean businesses are lumped into the same group as loggers who are only there for a short term or as long as they can hack it. Today a person can simply buy a chainsaw and a skidder, take a training class and then they are considered a ‘qualified’ logger.


Many of these “loggers” do harm to the industry because they have a short term window of operations, but the damage they can do to the industry is long term. We cannot continue to operate this way. The time has come for a performance-based certification to truly separate the loggers that care, are invested heavily and want to see a future of responsible forest management.


There have been many people who are skeptical of Master Logger because they believe it will somehow inhibit their business, add cost and cause harm, when in fact its purpose is to recognize those of you who are doing things right and separate you from those who don’t.


Training alone is a great equalizer when it comes to responsible and irresponsible logging contractors. Anyone can attend a training and be recognized for that. It is not enough. What matters is what happens in the woods.


Our industry simply can’t move forward because everyone is “trained”.  Training programs have improved safety and opened up new ideas, but they also cost valuable time if they are taken simply to meet a required mandate. The logging profession cannot be judged on attendance at training programs alone. Better to judge the profession on performance standards that drive continuous improvement.


I think what has been lost over the last twenty years is the understanding of the terms: “qualified” and “certified”.  This has confused those working in the industry as well as the general public.  As a result, these terms are comingled and used without understanding, allowing those who have attended a training program to call themselves certified even though this doesn’t meet the definition of the term. 


For context, I think it’s extremely important to differentiate between 1st party (company) , 2nd party (qualified) and 3rd party (certified) assessments. 1st Party assessment is a conformity assessment performed by the individual that provides the service, where the 1st party can establish, “I am good”. 2nd party assessment is a conformity assessment performed by an organization (Trainer, instructor) that has an interest in the service provided, “we are good” otherwise known as “qualified”. 3rd party assessment is a conformity assessment that requires an entirely independent party to provide the conformity assessment. “They are good”. 3rd party is the only assessment that can be called certification.


In closing, I offer the following table for you to compare and contrast the differences and uses of Logger Training Program (qualified) vs. Master Logger (certified). Training has been important and will be important for growth for ourselves and our employees, but it should not be the deciding factor in measuring a logger’s commitment to the industry.

Many of you have years of experience, serious investments in machines, employees and your local communities. These successes that you have worked so hard to achieve can be undermined and minimized by a recognition system that is mandated by others, and that’s not fair. Performance based certification recognizes your good work and commitment to the logging profession and is that recognition that will lead to an image of our professionalism that we all desire.


I hope this article mobilizes conscientious logging contractors towards voluntary logger certification. We need all of you on board going above and beyond to help weed the bad out from the good. The industry and our profession will be better because of it.