Taylor honored by LFA\LLC for Lifetime Achievemnet

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

Louisiana Logger Travis Taylor of Goldonna, third from left, is surrounded by family as he received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Louisiana Forestry Association/Louisiana Logging Council at the annual convention in Shreveport at the end of August. From left, son-in-law Alan Lyles; daughter Joanna Lyles; Travis; grandson Zack Lyles; wife Sharon Taylor; grandson Taylor Dark; grandson Ethan Dark; daughter Sandy Taylor; and Jason Blewer, Sandy's fiance.
Travis Taylor was once upon a time a Calvin High School Student who earned extra money by hauling a few loads of pulpwood during days out of school to earn spending money with his pal, Benny Denver Martin. After graduating from Calvin High School in 1963, and earning a degree in forestry from Louisiana Tech in Ruston, Taylor worked as a forester for Joe Burns for a couple of years before embarking on a 40-plus year career in the Piney Woods as a logger.

On August 27, 2014, Taylor was presented the first Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Louisiana Logging Council. He told the Piney Woods Journal: "This award means a lot to me because it comes from my fellow log haulers. Most of the work that I've done outside of the logging woods has been to help the plight of all my friends and acquaintances that are also in the logging business. I know firsthand from my 40 plus years in this work, what it takes to survive in the logging business."

However, another title can also be added to Taylor's lifetime resume and that is "Cancer Survivor." As Taylor relates, "Lung cancer was by far the most difficult thing that ever happened to me. It was a huge battle that I could not have survived unless the Good Lord had wanted me too."

"I knew when I got the initial diagnosis of my condition that the only way I was going to survive was that it would be the Good Lord's will. I held on to that thought all during those dark days that seemed to never end. But I was determined to do my part to survive, and that was to follow the doctor's orders because I think Dr. Ratnam was as good a doctor as I could have found."

"Some of my friends have suggested that I write a book about my experiences," Taylor acknowledged. "I may do that one day, but if I do, it will start out and end acknowledging that I would not have survived my cancer if it had not been God's will."

"Dr. Ratnam is convinced that Louisiana log haulers are the 'toughest of the toughest' because he told me that all the chemo and radiation that he gave me would have killed any other man he had ever treated. I just told Dr. Ratnam that neither he nor I had much to do with my surviving cancer, it was my faith in God that did it!"

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Taylor by LFA President, David Cupp and LA Logging Council President Buzz Jenkins during the recent Louisiana Forestry Association Convention in Shreveport. In part of the award ceremony for Taylor, C.A. "Buck" Vandersteen had this to say about his longtime friend: "Travis Taylor has been part of every milestone in the logging industry in the last 20 years."

It was in 1997 after Taylor was chosen by the LLC/LFA as "Outstanding Logger of the Year" that he began to spend more and more time out of the woods participating in activities relating to issues facing the logging industry such as those dreaded TMDL's and the huge controversy about the expiration of the Canadian Softwood Agreement."

Taylor was instrumental in the core group that formed the Louisiana Logging Council of which he served two terms as both Vice-President and President. As a holder of a "Master Logger" certification from the LLC, he was also part of the LLC leaders who approved the template for the standards of "certified logger program." Later, Taylor Logging was certified as one of the first businesses in Louisiana under the "Smart Logging Guidelines."

"We do have some great opportunities ahead of us as Louisiana Log haulers because of activities in the development of the wood pellet industry in Louisiana," Taylor explained. "I'm looking forward to the opportunities that German Pellets are offering at Urania, and Drax at Bastrop and Gloster."

In late 2002, Taylor was one of the founders of the investment group in Vanguard Fuels in Pollock to make an alternate renewable fuel from biomass. Taylor's concept was to produce diesel fuel from biomass. After delivering a load of wood to the facility in Pollock, a trucker could fill up his diesel tanks with green renewable diesel for his return trip to the logging woods.

Although the dream of making diesel fuel from wood did not materialize, Vanguard Synfuels became the first full scale production facility in Louisiana to produce diesel fuel from soy bean oil.

In 2005, Taylor and a group of loggers founded the Southern Loggers Cooperative (SLC) to help loggers save money on diesel fuel and other supplies used by loggers and truckers in the logging woods. In 2014, SLC has nearly 1,500 members in the cooperative who consume nearly 2 million gallons of diesel fuel monthly.

Taylor was always innovative in his logging operations, being the first logger in Louisiana to operate Ponsee cut-to-length equipment. Taylor also operated in-woods chippers for nearly two decades, supplying chips to paper mills and boiler fuel.

After serving as Secretary, 2nd Vice-President, and 1st Vice-President of the American Logging Council (ALC) that represents thousands of loggers around the USA, Taylor became President of the American Logging Council in September of 2012. He was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer in early January of 2013. Although suffering greatly from his cancer illness, Taylor continued on as President of the ALC with the help of Executive Director of the ALC, Danny Dructor and the other officers of the ALC pulling double duty.

Taylor, with the help of his wife, Sharon, was able to attend the 2013 American Logging Council Annual Conference held at Paragon Resort in Marksville. This was the first year in the ALC's 20 year history that the annual meeting was held in Louisiana. Typically, the annual convention is held in the home state of the president in office each year.

"I'm only here by the Grace of God," Taylor told those American Loggers assembled at the Paragon Resort Convention Center in September 2013. "I appreciate so much everyone in the ALC carrying on the responsibilities while I have been battling my cancer."

Perhaps one of Taylor's proudest accomplishments to date has been the founding of the Timber Harvesting Equipment Operating School at the Winnfield Technical School which started in 2013. The Technical/Vocational School in Winnfield is part of the LA Community and Technical College System. Taylor had been a leading advocate for years of the need to train the younger generation in logging techniques.

"The logging industry has seen some tough problems in the last decade, but the biggest problem is that very few members of the younger generations are going in the logging industry," Taylor has emphasized numerous times over the years. "Traditionally, logging has been a family oriented industry that produced 3rd and 4th generation loggers. If we don't train new people to get into the logging industry, the logging force will continue to diminish to such low numbers that it could cause chaos in the forest industry when people can't be found to get the timber to the mills."

Although the recent award to Taylor was for Lifetime Achievements, from all indications Taylor intends to continue to remain active in the logging industry as long as the Good Lord blesses Travis with the health to continue.