State of Wisconsin’s logging business  

Photo courtesy of Collin Buntrock

Photo courtesy of Collin Buntrock

Mark Rickenbach, Professor & Extension Specialist
Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
mark.rickenbach@wisc.edu
(608) 225-2477

Mark Rickenbach talks about Wisconsin’s logging industry and the future of small logging businesses in the state. 

3:02 – Total Time

0:18 – Logging in Wisconsin
0:39 – Wood for paper and other products
1:26 – Family business challenges
1:47 – Larger small businesses
2:14 – Forestry Wisconsin second largest industry
2:36 – Future of logging in Wisconsin
2:52 – Lead out

 

TRANSCRIPT

Sevie Kenyon: Taking a look at the Wisconsin logging industry, we’re visiting with Mark Rickenbach, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Mark, give us a general overview of the logging business here in Wisconsin.

Mark Rickenbach: We believe there is around a thousand logging businesses and we talk about logging businesses those are the people who are out in the woods basically cutting trees down, processing them into shorter lengths so they can be taken to be used for the variety of wood and wood based products that we have here in the State

Sevie Kenyon: Can you give us an idea of the kinds of products that are made here?

Mark Rickenbach: Wisconsin has historically been one of the leading paper producers in the US ranking first, I think, for about the last 50 years, and so paper is a big part of what we harvest and that’s based on a lot of pulpwood that we take out, particularly hardwood pulps, as well as providing wood for things like furniture and cabinets and those types of materials too.

Sevie Kenyon: Mark can you give us an idea of what kinds of trees are typically harvested here in the state.

Mark Rickenbach: The trees we harvest basically reflect the forests that we have. We are predominantly a hardwood state, we have a lot of wood forests from northern hardwoods with maple, and those types of hardwoods, to the south with oak as well as aspen is an big, important, species for the pulp and paper industry.

Sevie Kenyon: And Mark, what kinds of challenges does this business face?

Mark Rickenbach: People may not know it but a lot of logging firms are very small businesses, one maybe two employees, and like a lot of family owned businesses they face real challenges in terms of thinking about how do they grow, how do they get bigger, and how do they find an adequate work force in order to provide a sustainable supply of timber.

Sevie Kenyon: How has the business model changed for the loggers over time?

Mark Rickenbach: We’ve done studies in 2007 and in 2011 and what we have seen is kind of a loss of the total number of firms, with a growing number of larger firms that maybe have; and when I say larger I mean like 9 or 10 employees that work for a single business and that seems to be the model of how they are picking up the slack for those firms where people have retired.

Sevie Kenyon: Mark can you give us a sense of the economic value of logging here in Wisconsin.

Mark Rickenbach: Loggers contribute to the wood products industry in the state, which is the second largest industry in the state. In 2012 it provided about $23 billion in output and employed over 59,000 workers, so it’s a significant component particularly when you look at the northern part of the state, which is more forested.

Sevie Kenyon: And Mark, what do you think the future holds for the logging business in the state.

Mark Rickenbach: As long as we want to practice forestry in this state we are going to need loggers, and one of the things we know is that this is an aging work force, and so a question is how are we going to recruit business owners as well as keep that work force that is critical to maintaining that sector.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting today with Mark Rickenbach, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I’m Sevie Kenyon.

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