ALC president Taylor overcomes obstacles, sees more yet to do

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

"There were several more things that I wanted to accomplish during my term as President of the American Logging Council that I was not able to do," Travis Taylor, whose term ends in late September, told the Piney Woods Journal. "I was only about three months into my term when my health became a real problem with the lung cancer diagnosis."

"However, the other side of the situation is the bright side," Taylor acknowledged. "My initial diagnosis was that it would be terminal in about 6 months, but the good Lord has seen reason to bless me such that my doctors tell me the cancer may be in remission after I finish my last chemo treatment."

As I continue to progress in my treatment, I feel that the reason that I'm still alive is the fact that the "Good Lord" has more things planned for me to do. After my terms ends after the September ALC convention, I will still be very much involved with the Council as the immediate past president and member of the board of directors. I am pleased that It worked out so that this year's annual convention, Sept. 26-28 will held in Louisiana for the very first time in history.?

Taylor started his career in the forest industry by hauling short pulpwood with his dad while still a teenager. After finishing high school at Calvin in Winn Parish in 1963, Taylor enrolled at Louisiana Tech in the School of Forestry. During the summer break in classes, Taylor was able to go out west to fight fires with the US Forest Service.

After graduation with a degree in forestry, Taylor was employed by Joe Burns Timber Company as a forester. Taylor and Mervin Parker from Sikes, who had also recently completed his forestry degree at LA Tech, worked together in the woods cruising timber and directing logging operations. After a couple years in that position with Joe Burns Timber Company, Taylor became a contract logger for Burns. \par }{\plain A few years later, Taylor began to haul logs for other timber companies and also direct to the mills. In 1990, Taylor made his first direct purchase of a US Forest Service timber sale. Since that time, a large part of Taylor's logging and chipping operation has been US Forest Service logs and wood.

"I was always looking for a better way to log and make better use of my equipment," Taylor said. "When mechanized logging started coming to the forefront in the industry, there were lots of opportunity for improving our logging operations. I went to a lot of equipment shows, even to the UK and France, plus I visited a lot of manufacturers of skidders, loaders, and cutters."

"I was able to buy a couple of in-woods chippers and found that to be a good niche for me. I kept my logging job going, but did a lot of chipping in the woods hauling to the paper mills and also boiler fuel. By the later part of the 1990's, I had made a trip to Finland to look at the cut-to-length logging equipment."

"To me, the cut-to-length System was what I had been looking for. It worked quite well for several years," Taylor pointed out. "We even brought in some operators from Finland who had experience running (CTL) equipment. Using the CTL system had a lot of benefits. First, the operation didn't damage a lot of the other trees when engaged in thinning. Second, you got the same length log each time as the computer read the measurements. And thirdly, what I thought was a major benefit was that the CTL equipment was good in wet weather ground."

Taylor was the first logger in the South to purchase CTL equipment. The company actually opened an office in West Monroe under the direction of the late Mike Womack to service Taylor's machines, and use Taylor's operation as a showcase to prospective buyers.

Although mechanized logging was the basic operation for all loggers in Louisiana by the late 1990's, tornados and heavy winds from time to time would knock down considerable US Forest Service timber. Taylor and his logging contractor friend Jimmy Carter were always first in line to submit bids for the salvage work.

"Storm salvage work put us back in the woods with chainsaws because usually the storm timber was blown down on top of each other making it impossible to use a shear or even a skidder until the tree limbs were cut and the logs cut into the length you wanted. At that point, a skidder could drag them to the set to be loaded. Typically, storm timber was bigger in diameter than most timber coming into the mills so there were only a few mills in the areas that could still cut large diameter logs."

Taylor's coming out of the woods and getting involved in the Louisiana Logging Council (LLC) was basically by happenstance. Although an active member of the Council, Taylor had shied away from offering to be a candidate for any of the LLC officer slots. Finally, an opening came up because a vice-president had resigned and a special election had to be held to replace the officer who would in the future, for two years be the President of the LLC.

Clyde Todd, then working with the LFA and the LLC, asked Taylor to be a candidate because only one other logger was interested in the position. Taylor was elected in a special election as a VP. Later he served for two years as LLC President succeeding Dennis Aucoin. It was at this point that Taylor made the first of his more than two dozen trips to Washington DC to help represent the best interests of his fellow loggers.

Also, it was from the Louisiana Logging Council that Taylor became active in the ALC, first serving as an elected Board of Directors member and later Secretary, 2nd Vice-President, 1st Vice President and then a year as President of the American Logging Council. Taylor will be succeeded by Brian Nelson, a logging contractor from Michigan as the 2013-2014 ALC President at the conclusion of the convention in Marksville on September 28.

During his career since just the late 1990's, Taylor has been Louisiana Logger of the Year, hosted an "Environmental in the Woods Summit" on the Kisatchie southeast of Winnfield. Attending that "Summit" were numerous environmental attorneys and activists. After viewing Taylor's operation and seeing how Forest Best Management Practices actually work in the field, Ray Vaughan and Lamar Marshall, two leading environmental attorneys, actually dropped lawsuits against the US Forest Service Kisatchie Forest, and publically endorsed Taylor's environmentally friendly logging practices.

Taylor did not confine his activities just to his own operations but helped organize and host two "In-The-Woods Equipment Shows" held in Natchitoches Parish. Taylor has been a vocal supporter of the Louisiana Forest Festival throughout his career.

"The forest industry in general and the logging industry has taken some heavy blows in the last 15 years," Taylor noted. "First came the Canadian Softwood Agreement expiration which gave Canada almost unlimited access to sell cheap lumber in the USA. Sawmills and loggers by the hundreds were forced out of business because of cheap Canadian lumber."

"The environmentalists were able to gain so much influence in Congress until our national forest land has been neglected to the point that thousands of acres of good timber burn up each year. The government has cut back timber sales so much in the last 15 years that many other loggers and sawmills have gone out of business.'' "We all remember very vividly the Great Recession 0f 2008 when the building business dropped to its lowest production level in history. We saw how closely the building and forest industry were tied together; few houses being built instantly dried up the demand for lumber. When we tried to help ourselves through the TREE ACT (which would have given tax credits to people building new houses using only lumber grown and manufactured here in the USA) Congress turned a deaf ear."

Taylor has had overwhelming success with his idea for the Southern Loggers Cooperative (SLC). From Taylor and a handful of his close friends, in eight years the SLC has increased to 1,500 members in more than a dozen states, with 30 fueling stations. In 2012, the SLC sold more than $20 million in diesel fuel to its members at a cost well below the wholesale price of diesel.

The Timbermen's Self-Insured Fund headquartered in Winnfield was founded by Benny Martin and a handful of other loggers in the early 1990's in response to gigantic rate increases in Workman's Comp. Benny Martin had been a childhood, high school and pulpwood hauling buddy of Taylor's along with being a classmate of Taylor's at the Louisiana Tech Forestry School. When Martin died several years back, Taylor was elected to take Martin's seat on the Board of Directors of the Timbermen's Self-Insured Fund.

Writer's Note: Although Taylor has been slowed down due to cancer issues during his term as ALC President, his outstanding leadership and accomplishments have been huge. Travis, as you say, since the good Lord is blessing you through your treatments and the future looks some brighter than it did a few months back, I agree with you that the good Lord has more things that in store for Travis Taylor to do to help his fellow loggers around the country. God bless you, buddy!