Merry Christmas from D.C.: Loggers finally catch a break

Local loggers and truckers will benefit from a provision passed in a transportation bill recently signed into law.
With the help of Rep. Rick Nolan, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, logging trucks will no longer have to drive city streets in Duluth instead of I-35.
For Ely logger Elroy Kuehl, driving a semi truck full of logs down London Road and Superior Street never made sense. These streets were made for cars, not logging trucks.
So Kuehl went from logger to advocate, starting with Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack who rode with Kuehl in a caravan through Duluth in 2012 to bring publicity to the issue. For some reason the late Rep. Jim Oberstar wasn’t interested.
Unfortunately Cravaack wasn’t in office long enough to make it happen in 2012. It took three more years of lobbying before a common sense solution was passed.
Give credit to Nolan for listening to Kuehl and his fellow loggers. Nolan steered the language into the transportation bill and moved the trucks to the interstate.
Federal regs don’t allow trucks over 80,000 pounds to travel on interstates. Logging trucks need to run fully loaded to make money and usually run at just under 99,000 pounds.
Today’s logger has to fight for every penny to survive. Environmental groups have thrown every monkey wrench they can find to stop logging, especially on federal land. Loggers also continually battle fuel prices and the weather.
Right now you should be seeing logging trucks passing through Ely and going down Highway 1 on a regular basis. With fall extending into December, swamps aren’t frozen yet and there’s thousands of cords laying on the ground waiting to be skidded out and loaded onto trucks.
Loggers are resourceful, however, turning to skidders with 50-inch tires and bulldozers with 44-inch wide tracks. These pieces of equipment can get through the swamps and retrieve the trees dropped earlier.
Nearly gone from the woods are the sounds of chainsaws, replaced with hydraulic equipment that can grab onto a tree, cut it off and lay it down in a matter of seconds. Instead of a bunch of fellers with chainsaws, feller-bunchers do the work quicker and safer.
Most trees end up as lumber or paper but the trend of chipping low-quality wood along with branches is happening here as well. Semis full of chips are hauled to bio-fuel plants including the one in Mt. Iron where they are used for heating purposes.
Thanks to Nolan, Klobuchar and Franken our local loggers received a nice Christmas present with the restriction being lifted on I-35. In today’s logging economy, every little bit helps.