Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, Inc.

June 2014Ben Parsons, FISTA Training Coordinator

A Little Town Called Earth 

Spring break-up is behind us, the transition into summer has begun and half of FISTA’s SFI continuing education classes for 2014 are in the past.  This year’s training workshop schedule is one that we have received a lot of praise for thus far.  This year we offered a couple new topics, and for some of the repeat subjects, we were happy to introduce new, charismatic instructors.   Continuous improvement of this program is a goal that we will pursue year after year, and your opinions matter.  Your evaluation feedback is considered in every step in an effort to do just that.

Throughout each year, I enjoy the interaction I have with you.  Of the 2000+ faces I see each year in SFI and Chainsaw Safety classes, I’m starting to get to know several of you on a personal level and look forward to seeing you in your annual training session.  One thing I notice in many conversations, however, is the misconception of WHY I get to see you all every year.  Could it be that too many are missing the big picture of what’s going on around us.  In short, the reason you all have the opportunity to participate in FISTA’s educational opportunities is because we all live in a little town called Earth.  Let’s take a moment to try and cram this big picture into a little box.  

Most of us presently involved in the timber industry remember a time, not long ago, when forest products companies needed raw material produced locally.  In the local economy, we know our competition; fellow loggers, foresters and mills within our region.  Due to the globalization of our economy, our competition has grown more complex and is made up of many more faces that we will never see.  In a global economy, our local competitors are also our allies, and it’s way past time we start acting like it.

On a local scale economy, we may see shortages of wood, but on a global scale, there is no shortage.  With the transportation infrastructure in place today, a forest products manufacturer can bring in their raw material from far off sources at a rate surprisingly competitive to local suppliers.  Look around our region.  Step further back and look across our nation.  How many forest products manufacturing facilities have we lost in the last 10 years.  How many will be lost in the next 10 years.  Then again, are they really lost, or have they merely left our region?

Earth’s population is not decreasing.  Demand for wood is not decreasing.  So why have we seen decline and struggles in our local timber economy?  Drum roll please… Because like it or not, we are part of a global economy and have refused to act like it.  As suppliers, we are still stuck in the local economy mindset.  Companies can, and will close their manufacturing facilities and shift production elsewhere, because they must compete on a global scale where risk and costs are lower.  Since they must compete on a global scale, we are competing on a global scale as well; against timbermen in Canada, Russia, New Zealand, Uruguay and several other countries we probably don’t even care to think about while stuck in a local economy mindset.

So how do we adjust to a global economy on a local scale?  We can start right here, with FISTA, and by supporting your State Implementation Committee for SFI.  By attending training opportunities that reflect the objectives of SFI, not only should you be gaining an edge that will make you safer, more successful, or both, but also doing your part to maintain your region, your state, your nation as the global leader in responsible and professional forest management.

Why is being a global leader important locally?  A few months ago, while the weather was still wintry and the kids had a bad case of cabin fever, I took them to the theatre to watch Rio 2.  In this movie, critical wildlife habitat was being threatened by an “illegal logging operation”.  Trust me, the kids and I spent a lot of time discussing the differences between logging here in the U.S. and what goes on in other parts of the world after the movie.  I doubt many people watching that movie had a similar discussion.  One can only imagine what impact those scenes are making on the general public’s view of all logging operations, legal or not!  

Third party certification programs exist because the customer demands it.  More and more, the customer demands certified products simply because illegal logging practices do exist in the global economy and the general public is aware of this.  Organizations like SFI are continuously working to level the playing field in the global forest products market and guess who’s setting the bar…we are!

FISTA is here to provide the best educational opportunities for professional loggers anywhere.  By keeping a positive attitude and soaking up all the information you can in FISTA’s SFI training workshops, you are supporting such efforts to keep pressure on your global competitors to step up to the same plate you do.  “Attitude is everything”; regardless of your opinions of third party certification, it is, and will be a part of doing business.  Our customers demand it.
In the big picture, we need to be as active and vocal as we can.  If that’s not possible, then passionately support the organizations that represent your interests.  Support for FISTA and GLTPA can be achieved through positive attitudes and alertness in training workshops, your honest critique on final evaluations and association membership.  Such support is doing your part to represent our local economy on a global scale, which enables you to be part of the solution by simply doing what you do best!  Have you heard the quote, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”?  Which are you?

Ben Parsons, FISTA Training Coordinator, is originally from West “By God”, Virginia as they say in that part of the Appalachian Mountains. His family’s deeply rooted philosophy of living off the land was monumental in deciding to earn a degree in Forest Management from West Virginia University.  Throughout his career, Ben has had the opportunity to tackle a wide variety of assignments.  He measured Forest Inventory and Analysis research plots in Virginia and Georgia, been involved with urban and utility forestry operations throughout the Appalachian region, procured lowland hardwood timber in the swamps of South Georgia, managed logging contracts and harvest operations in Arkansas and specialized in water quality and harvest planning as well as fighting forest fires in Virginia. As FISTA Training Coordinator, helping to meet your safety and educational needs is the number one priority here at FISTA.  For more information, contact Ben at 800-551-2656 or ben.parsons@fistausa.org