Tree Foundation of Kern

Lumber Harvester

To turn logs into lumber.

By all accounts, logging for wood products in the United States is in decline as the focus of our national forests changes from providing wood products to providing recreational opportunities.This change in focus creates a career opportunity for non-traditional, high tech wood products from "junk" low grade wood, chips and flakes.

Despite the fact that there have been 150 sawmill closures in California alone in recent years, the remaining large operations have a number of career opportunities.Jeff Gletne, forester with Sierra Forest Products in California, says that many entry level opportunities are available as a saw mill operator at between $7 and $12 per hour.With experience and education, a career path can be made up the ladder to contractor ($30,000), logging supervisor ($35,000), general manager ($35,000) and forester ($35,000).Saw mill owner opportunities are limited because of the intense requirement for capital investment.

Loggers and millers embrace this industry as a way of life because the work is done in the forests and requires extended periods of time away from home.Turnover is high, but some, swear by it."I was a pre-med major then got a degree in forestry.I just couldn't see myself cooped up for too long and that's how I ended up in logging" says Gletne.

Jonathan Wagy owns the last full time saw mill in Tulare county in California.He is a true renaissance man who has found himself a niche by cutting special sizes.He's a good saw miller by his own account and can cut a log efficiently with minimal waste, a feat which demands a great deal of creativity.Wagy purchases logs from independent loggers and converts them to corral lumber, fence posts, rough side barn siding, wood for log cabins and custom furniture manufacturing.He can match wood and sizes needed for old home restoration.He carries no inventory - everything is custom sawed."There's never a dull day" says Wagy. "I am constantly challenged."

Logging is a very specialized field for which education and training are limited.Oregon State University continues to offer a degree in logging.Work is hard and very physical.It is all outside, although some areas of the mill are sheltered.It is highly intense and not without danger.

The best way to start, according to Wagy, is with an employer, and work your way up the company ladder.Education and skills include knowing how to communicate effectively and correctly, knowing how to get get along with people, having business knowledge and accounting skills, and having the technical knowledge it takes for production of lumber and maintenance of equipment.