Keeping loggers and foresters trained

Bryan Wagner

Bryan Wagner with the Forestry Mutual Insurance Company, demonstrates chain saw safety.

Sustainability and education are more important than ever, especially when it comes to our natural resources. In response to these demands, Virginia’s Sustainable Harvesting and Resource Professional Logger Program is working to educate loggers and foresters across the state to help them operate in changing markets while implementing sustainable best management practices.

The SHARP Logger Program — working in cooperation with the Virginia Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee — provides loggers and foresters with training in the principles of sustainable forestry, environmental protection, and workplace safety. Since it began in 1996, more than 3,500 loggers, foresters, and others have completed the SHARP Logger Program training provided by Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment, Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and others.

In order to become a SHARP Logger, participants must complete a core program of 18 hours of classroom and field training on such topics as sustainable forestry, logging safety, harvest planning, and best management practices for protecting water quality. Participants must then earn 12 hours of continuing education credits every three years in order to maintain their SHARP Logger standing.

“As markets evolve and the needs of forest industry and forest landowners change over time, training Virginia’s logging workforce is important for sustainable forest management,” said Scott Barrett, Extension associate and SHARP Program coordinator. “The SHARP Logger Program provides training opportunities to help logging businesses adapt to changing markets and sustainably harvest forest resources.”

SHARP Logger training is provided at no cost to participants. It is funded by a voluntary assessment on each ton of logs and wood fiber produced annually by the companies that participate in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Program in Virginia, plus an assessment on each acre of Virginia forestland managed by participating landowners.

Companies that participate in the SFI Program are committed to supporting the SHARP Logger Program, ensuring that SFI standards are applied on their own lands and promoting sustainable forestry throughout the commonwealth, thereby ensuring that sustainable forestry principles are followed on the vast majority of timber harvest sites in Virginia.

As an example of how the SHARP Logger Program is impacting Virginia forestry, a partnership with MeadWestvaco and Enviva resulted in three continuing education workshops in 2012 that addressed biomass harvesting and included demonstrations of chippers and grinders from seven different manufacturers.

The workshops helped many Virginia logging businesses evaluate whether they can adapt their operations to utilize logging residues, such as limbs and tops previously left behind on harvest sites because there was no market for them. Six new renewable electricity facilities coming on board in Virginia will use such residues and other woody biomass fuel to produce electricity. The new facilities will have a combined capacity to produce more than 300 megawatts of electricity — enough renewable energy to power more than 75,000 homes.

The Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment maintains a database of current SHARP Loggers and training schedules for upcoming SHARP Logger Program classes.

Visit www.sharplogger.vt.edu.

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