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From factory closures to border tensions, new book explores turmoil in Maine's logging industry

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In the Northern Woods, Maine loggers felled trees, fended off foreign competition, and navigated major changes in the wood products industry.

Former University of Maine professor Andrew Egan has written a new book, Haywire: Discord in Maine’s Logging Woods And The Unraveling of an Industry. He is currently Professor of Forest Resources at the Abraham Baldwin College of Agriculture in Georgia.

Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz spoke with Egan about the physical and economic threats Maine’s loggers have faced for decades.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Gratz: The book is not just a Maine book, as it turns out to be a Canadian from Quebec who has worked in the woods of Maine for a long time.

Egan: Not just like Yankee Loggers. Some of the tensions between Maine loggers and loggers who are often slave laborers from Quebec.

And you detail some of those tensions. It really was a relationship that was very contentious at times.

Perhaps some kind of resentment at Quebec loggers taking jobs from Americans and lowering wage rates that many Yankee loggers find unfair. I think it’s a persistent problem here.

You describe how mainly forest workers went from being corporate employees to independent contractors after World War II, and many of the loggers were among the first to embrace that change.

Yeah, I think they saw it as an opportunity to be their own boss, and an opportunity to record when and where they wanted, possibly to increase their profits. sawmill too. Not necessarily all loggers backfired, but there is a strong sense that we can understand from the literature on the harm of loggers who left their employers and received benefits accrued to their employees. I intend to become an independent contractor, but it may not be as easy as I thought.

Many Maine factories have closed or scaled back in recent years. How does that affect logger workload and working conditions?

This has introduced a great deal of uncertainty within the logging community. So these are no longer small business owners. They are medium sized business owners with heavy investments in feller bunchers, processors and forwarders. So you find it hard to deal with uncertainty, right? You don’t know what the market will be, where the next factory will close, etc. and you are either paying for expensive equipment or being encouraged to add more equipment to your logging company. I think that’s a problem for many of us.

Will businesses that want to continue using Maine’s forests be able to find enough loggers?

I think it depends on who you talk to. Logging in Maine He has people in the community who say they can’t get enough loggers. When I was at the University of Maine, we did some work on this and the article was titled “Who Logs?” It was published in the Journal of Forestry because it sees the breakdown of family and generational attachments to logging. Difficult, right? I think about a lot of things, so I value the image of a lumberjack. One of his quotes from Haywire’s Vermont loggers said, “Vermont is a tourist state, so some of us in plaid shirts are standing by the side of the road.” still wants to And I think it’s kind of a bummer to have to sit back and think, “Oh, this is where we are now,” at least from this person’s perspective. As you know, this is not a quaint profession or profession. This is a lot of work. lots of risks. There are many uncertainties right now, including factory closures, uncertain markets and global competition. So I hope there still remains a sense that this is an important profession for Maine.