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Lumberjack safety instructor Ken Lallemont shows a student how to inspect a chainsaw. The student is Brian McKillop, a physician from Seattle with forest land near Leavenworth. (KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols)

Lumberjack safety instructor Ken Lallemont shows a student how to inspect a chainsaw. The student is Brian McKillop, a physician from Seattle with forest land near Leavenworth. (KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols)

KUOW News

Washington Retirees Pick Up A Chainsaw, Carefully, For A Love Of The Land

Joshua McNichols
06/25/2012

Next time you buy a box of tissues, you might notice the letters FSC stamped on the box. That means the wood for the tissue was harvested in a way that promotes wildlife habitat. Most FSC wood fiber in Washington comes from land owned by the state, but a respectable chunk comes from a very unusual group of loggers.

TRANSCRIPT

In a forest just East of Yelm, Ken Lallemont teaches his students how to inspect a chainsaw.

Ken Lallemont: "Chain brake, chain catch, throttle lock, looking for any loose nuts and bolts, exhaust system is intact — "

You could call this class lumberjack safety. These students are learning how to cut down trees. And where to stand —

Sound: Tree hitting ground.

— for this.

These aren't your typical loggers. Most of them are new to logging, and most of them are over 50 years old. A few of them, much older. Lallemont has some special advice for the class.

Ken Lallemont: "There are guardian angels out there whose job it is to keep young fools alive. There's not enough of them to go around, so they have no time for old fools. If you don't catch on as you get older, you're gonna get hurt or die. "

What would entice these men to spend their retirement doing this dangerous job? The land.

Class participant Elvin Borg fell in love with 75 acres just east of Centralia, Washington.

Elvin Borg: "We had looked at about, oh, 80 different places in the area. And I saw this place and my wife hadn't seen it. And I called her and I said 'You've got to see this one.' Because it was pretty streams, and beaver ponds, and trees of different ages, and it looked like a park. And I thought, how can one person own something like this? And yet it was feasible."

Most of the landowners in this class bought acreage formerly owned by Weyerhaeuser. The company is still the biggest private landowner in Washington. But over time, Weyerhaeuser has consolidated its holdings in the southwestern corner of the state. Those forests are closer to a big mill and an international port. That's left much of the state's private timberland for small landowners like Elvin.

Elvin wants to get his land certified with the FSC, the Forest Stewardship Council. That would indicate his timber was harvested according to strict environmental guidelines. A forest certified by the FSC is open to sunlight. It's home to a variety of trees and wildlife. It's different than your typical industrial forest. Weyerhaeuser says for them, it's too expensive.

KUOW: "Does it pencil out for you?"

Elvin Borg: "I don't even know. It probably won't. That is secondary actually, for me."

That's not an unusual response, according to Kirk Hanson. He's the director of Northwest Certified Forestry. He spends a lot of time reaching out to small landowners like Borg.

Kirk Hanson: "Often times they say they'd like to grow their forests out to look more like a natural forest and less like a plantation. Some of them are even interested in managing their forests to become old growth. Obviously that's beyond their life time."

And out of their control.

Kirk Hanson: "Of course also with the next generation acquiring that property they may have a completely different value system than their grandparents or their parents did."

Elvin Borg is talking to his heirs now. He's not sure what will happen to his land in the long run.

Elvin Borg: "We're just here to take care of it for a while and then it's somebody else's."

For now he's focused on the goal at hand: felling a tree without getting smooshed.

For KUOW, I'm Joshua McNichols.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

07.20.18

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