Pandemic, Coronavirus, COVID-19 – Were any of these medical terms on your mind during the fall of 2019 while cutting firewood, pruning trees, or grass seeding roads and trails on your family forestland? Likely not. But how can you think of much else in 2020?
As the shutdown began in mid-March, forest products manufacturing, including logging, fortunately, met the requirement for essential industries, so there was an upside. While this coincided with spring break-up, forest owners could still plan for timber sales once weather conditions allowed. And though expectations for log prices appeared generally soft (with some species not even being accepted), at least logs could be sent to the mill.
Contractors still had their crews available for reforestation projects, so trees ordered last fall were planted in the spring.
Our normal retail outlets remained open allowing us to purchase fuel, tools, parts, and other essential items for DIY projects on our forestland. One day, while standing in the check-out line with fly tying materials in hand at a local retailer, I jokingly remarked to the store manager, “We fly fishers are sure glad that your fly shop is considered an essential business.” She pointed to the customer standing six feet behind me with a cart holding livestock feed and hydraulic fluid and replied, “That’s why we’re open.” Note to self: On my next trip, I’ll make it a point to purchase chainsaw files and bar oil.
We could not purchase new vehicles or equipment, but the repair shops remained open to keep our reliable old rigs in the woods.
On the downside, educational programs suffered a huge blow. With less than 10 days warning, the 2020 Family Forest Landowners and Managers Conference had no choice but to cancel. This annual event attracts 300 participants to Moscow and also serves as the annual meeting for the Idaho Forest Owners Association, the Idaho Tree Farm Program, and the Inland Empire Society of American Foresters. Plans are underway for the 2021 FFL&MC with no way of predicting if it will be an in-person or virtual event.
COVID-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of many other educational programs and face-to-face activities, but by fall the combined IFOA/Idaho Tree Farm Forest Owners Field Day went off as scheduled, albeit with reduced attendance.
At IFM, we maintained social distancing by scheduling office hours for the foresters. Even when going to the same destination we traveled in separate vehicles, which created an inconvenience as we lost valuable “windshield” mentoring time for veterans to pass along their wisdom to a couple of our new foresters. Nonetheless, we were in the woods, every forester’s goal.
Looking back over the last six months of these uncertain times, foresters and forest landowners had boots on the ground – our ground – where social distancing has always been easy.
Be well, be safe, and take care of yourself and your forest,
-Bill Love, Certified Forester