Tuesday, September 1, 2009

O’Fallon man is Logger of the Year

By Jim Low
Conservation Department

Getting the most value from a stand of timber while ensuring the future productivity of the land is a challenge that Missouri’s 2009 Logger of the Year takes seriously.

Jim Zwyers, of O’Fallon, received the Missouri Department of Conservation’s top honor for timber harvesters July 25. State Forester Lisa Allen presented the award at the annual meeting of the Missouri Forest Products Association.

To receive this honor, a logger must be nominated by a professional, degree-holding forester. Zwyers’ performance was so remarkable that he received nominations from foresters in two districts.

St. Louis Region Forestry Resource Technician Jeff Bakameyer nominated Zwyers in part because he considers him “a man of good character and high integrity.”

“When he gives you his word, you can take it to the bank,” said Bakameyer. “He treats all of the land he works on, whether it is private property or public land, like it is his own and gives it the respect it deserves.”

As an example, Bakameyer cited an instance Zwyers was harvesting timber for a private landowner in St. Charles County and noticed that the land had a developing maple tree invasion. Under certain circumstances, maples can take over commercial forestland, providing fewer benefits for wildlife than the oak trees that previously grew there.

“Jim knew the landowner wanted to manage his land properly,” said Bakameyer, “so he took the initiative to tell the owner about the downside of having maples everywhere. He even told him that the Conservation Department might be able to help him pay for treating the maples. Later, he called me to be sure who the landowner should talk to for help. When we have loggers in our area preaching about the evils of maple, it almost brings a tear to my eye.”

Central Region Resource Forester Josh Stevens shares Bakameyer’s admiration for Zwyers’ commitment to customer service. He is equally impressed with business savvy that not only improves his and his customers’ bottom lines but makes better forest management possible.

“Jim cuts small diameter trees and large diameter,” said Stevens. “He sorts the logs and sells to the highest bidder, whether it be stave, veneer, pallet or firewood. He realized that being in the firewood business gave him a competitive advantage for small and defective timber. He bought a feller-buncher (an expensive piece of equipment that rapidly cuts and gathers several trees at a time) that he now uses for timber sales and timber-stand-improvement cuts at the same time. What is just as impressive is the lack of damage to soils and trees in a stand where he has worked with the feller-buncher. He gets every bit of value for the timber owner, while improving his own bottom line and protecting the resource.”

Stevens also noted a case where Zwyers helped a fellow logger who was injured on the job. “He stepped in and handled many of the other logger’s projects until he recovered. This is just another example of Jim’s selfless ethic,” said Stevens.

Logger of the Year Award recipients receive a framed certificate and a Stihl chainsaw. Candidates for the Logger of the Year Award must have completed the Professional Timber Harvester’s Training Program sponsored by the Missouri Forest Products Association and be current with the qualifications or equivalent training.

Candidates must be operating in Missouri and practicing sustainable forest management, have good forest-product utilization and follow best management practices. They must have low residual tree damage on their harvests and practice safe work habits, preferably using all available safety equipment. They must have no recent complaints or issues working with landowners and foresters on timber sales. The award honors “the best of the best” in the logging industry.

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