With the firm conviction of a country preacher, the U.S. Forest Service’s Deputy Regional Forester for the Pacific Southwest Region promised attendees at the 64th annual Sierra Cascade Logging Conference kickoff breakfast that his executive team will take a big picture view when formulating regulations for comprehensive forest management.
“I know what you folks are going through,” said Barnie Gyant, 47, the son of a North Carolina farmer who raised tobacco and ran a dairy farm to keep his family fed.
“As long as I work for the agency, the U.S. Forest Service, I want to make a difference. I will personally promise you that. That is what I want to do,” Gyant assured his rapt audience of nearly 400 loggers, mill owners, lumber company executives, truck drivers, equipment sales people and others packed into Fusaro Hall Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Shasta District Fair grounds in Anderson.
“There is an opportunity for us to get proactive and work together. If we work together, we can get out of all of these lawsuits, protect habitat and species and get enough fiber into our mills,” said Gyant, who toured some of the timber harvesting machinery on display just outside prior to arriving at the breakfast.
“I saw all of those pieces of equipment out there that must cost a half-million (dollars). I know that equipment has to be moving. It can’t be sitting idle on somebody’s low-boy (trailer) out there somewhere if you are going to make payments on it, feed your families, pay the mortgage and keep on top of all of your other bills,” added Gyant.
“You see, I get it,” he continued. “I grew up in a small town on a tobacco plantation. We harvested the yellow leaves every day from 6 a.m. until noon, when it started to get too hot to work. But when we got done with the tobacco, we still had to get the hay up to our dairy cows and milk them because cows never do take a vacation,” said Gyant, now a resident of Vallejo.
Gyant described his job as Deputy Regional Forester as “overseeing the agency’s regional budget, managing timber harvests and transportation systems in national forests, protecting soil, water and wildlife resources, handling NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969), tribal relations and litigation as well as risk management” for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“I signed up for the job I am in and I knew before I took it that it would be a difficult one. But I signed up for the simple reason that I want to make a difference. In 10 or 15 years from now, I want to be able to say that I have made a difference and left things better for my kids,” Gyant said.
Later, talking with reporters and well-wishers, Gyant described his role as that of a puzzle master.
“I see the issues that are all tied together,” he said.
Mike Albrecht, the logging conference’s 2012 Logger of the Year, commented on that refreshing change of attitude on Gyant’s part.
“When we talk to the U.S. Forest Service, the conversation is all about habitat. We never hear anything about getting logs back into the mills to that we can stop importing lumber and get back to supplying wood products for California as well as the rest of the country,” Albrecht said.
Forest management cannot be just about protecting wildlife just as forest management was never just about fighting wildfires, he explained.
“If (forests) burn, then we lose habitat for species. Fires are also going to burn up some of the infrastructure (roads and trails), then we get sediment into the streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. That sediment gets into the wells and the water supply,” Gyant replied, adding, “I understand that it is important to get fiber back into those mills.”
Gyant’s speech drew positive comments from conference executives including breakfast emcee Jed Gibson of Summit Funding Inc., a mortgage banker dealing mostly with residential home loans.
“The theme that conference president Joe Miller chose for this conference is ‘All for One, One for All,’ a theme made famous by the books and then the Three Musketeers,” Gibson said in his opening remarks.
“When we do that as a group, we are better able to survive tough economic times and controversial issues,” he added, noting, “Economic recovery is happening. In the last nine months, my business has doubled the number of its employees and our loan value in January was twice what it was in January a year ago,” Gibson noted.
In his own remarks, conference president Joe Miller of Weaverville expanded further on his theme of togetherness and the role that regulators often play.
“When we have the shackles off, we can do just about anything we set our minds to,” said Miller, a log buyer for the Trinity Lumber Company. “Things are not as complicated as we sometimes make them out to be in this industry. Things are pretty much solved through common sense and fairness,” Miller said.
“We aren’t looking for a handout. We just want to be allowed to go forward so we can make some progress.”