Loggers Pick Up Some Good Ideas Seminar Teaches Bookkeeping, Beetles, Environment

Rod Frunz thought he was a pretty good logger until he attended a one-day class last year and learned how much better he could be.

Frunz was so impressed with what he learned that he signed up for an expanded, four-day version of the class that is in progress now.

“I’m really trying to work at it,” he said, flipping through pages of a spiral binder he filled with notes.

When Frunz completes the course, he will get a certificate of accreditation from the Washington Contract Loggers Association.

Thirty-seven loggers, mostly from Stevens County, are enrolled in the four-day program. Seven other loggers are attending just some of the daylong sessions that cover everything from bark beetles and public relations to bookkeeping.

The seminar began two years as a one-day session sponsored by the state Department of Natural Resources and the Washington State University Extension Service.

Like several other students, Frunz said he values information more than the certificate he’ll get.

Frunz said he doesn’t need a certificate to get customers for his contract logging business at Gifford, Wash. Nor does he expect logging opponents to be impressed with the document. Instead, he wants to be able to hold his own in the marketplace of ideas.

“We need to get educated so we can pass on our information to suburbia - the ones who are voting on all the rules we have,” Frunz said.

The 42-year-old logger said he grew up in the Cheney area and understands suburban concerns about protecting the environment. “Being one of the welfare children wanting to make a living” tempered his outlook.

Frunz began logging 12 years ago after working for years in sawmills. He got his own skidder five years ago and now employs two cutters.

To be effective advocates, Frunz believes loggers must be masters of their trade and knowledgeable about environmental issues.

Frunz would like to dissuade city dwellers from erroneous views, such as the common assertion by logging critics that the bald eagle is a federally designated endangered species in Eastern Washington.

Although officially “threatened,” bald eagles are “doing extremely well” in the Inland Northwest, Steve Zender of the state Fish and Wildlife Department told a class of loggers. So are ospreys. Their problems were caused by poisonous chemicals, not habitat loss, he said.

Zender cautioned, though, that goshawks, which like mature trees and lots of space, could be a different story. He said the Audubon Society, a “credible group” unlike Earth First!, has petitioned for protection of goshawks and the department is studying the issue.

Frunz thinks the biggest problem for wildlife is residential development in rural areas, not logging. He hopes to convince people he and other loggers appreciate wildlife and old-growth forests.

“I like old growth, like antiques,” Frunz said. “You don’t want to get rid of all your antiques.”

He thinks selective thinning should be allowed in some old-growth forests but some should be left untouched.

He was intrigued with one of the ideas he picked up last week: controlled burning to clear underbrush that chokes out big trees and drives away space-loving mule deer. Indians used to burn areas to improve their hunting, Frunz said.

Fires are important to the health of forests, controlling insect infestations and preventing diseases such as root rot, Department of Natural Resources entomologist Ken Russell taught in a detailed session on ecology. But he said controlled fires aren’t possible without some logging to reduce the stockpile of “fuel” from 60 years of fire suppression.

Wes Patburg shared Frunz’s desire for knowledge to help improve loggers’ image. Patburg, 59, is concerned about the future of the Chewelah logging company he operates with his son.

Every industry has a few bad practitioners, Patburg said, “but most loggers are pretty good people.”

He’s seen a lot of changes in the business since he learned on a crosscut saw with his father. Today, one machine can grab a tree, fall it, limb it and stack it.

Patburg said loggers also are more environmentally sensitive, and that’s good. But they get no credit for the strides they’ve made and are unfairly portrayed as villains, he said.

“They make us look like we’re just out to rape the land, and that just isn’t true,” Patburg complained. “We like to hunt and fish just like everybody else.

“I was born and raised in Stevens County and I like it here. I’m not out to ruin it.”

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