Redwood Region Logging Conference held in Ukiah

Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

Loggers, foresters and others affiliated with the industry gathered in Ukiah this past weekend for the 74th annual Redwood Region Logging Conference (RRLC). This location of the event alternates every year between Eureka and Ukiah. RRLC will celebrate its Diamond Jubilee next year in Eureka, with Dave Carter of Green Diamond Resource Company presiding.

Casting somewhat of a somber cloud on this year's conference was the August 2011 death of RRLC past president and Fort Bragg City Councilman Jere Melo. 2012 Conference President Gary Roach described Melo as a "mainstay of the conference." After a moment of remembrance for Melo at the traditional Friday morning Gin Fizz and Moose Milk Breakfast, Roach said, "We've lost one of the best we ever had, but there is some small comfort in looking out at this group and knowing that Jere's influence means that there are more like him here in this crowd, working every day to benefit our industry and communities."

Since the 2011 RRLC in Eureka, four past presidents of the conference have passed away. Melo, who was RRLC president in 1979; Don Nolan Sr., president in 1987; Bob Stephens, president in 1984; and Bud Harwood, president in 1972.

On a brighter note, the 2012 conference had record attendance at the Timberman's Banquet and Auction Friday night and raised more than $100,000 to benefit RRLC education programs.

Speaking of education, approximately 900 Mendocino County students visited the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds in Ukiah for Education Day on March 15. Fifty industry professionals served as tour guide/mentors for the students, providing a first-hand look at the logging industry, with presentations including a live wildlife show and other science-based aspects of today's industry, modern and historic logging equipment, and a Lumberjack and Jill show presented by the Humboldt State University Logging Sports Team.

RRLC Board member Lisa Perry described Education Day as a resounding success for students. "They learned about natural resources and what we do," Perry said. "They asked many questions and were interested in our profession," she added. She believes the tide has turned on the negative perception of the forest products industry, and said one of the main goals of RRLC will be to continue to educate students and the general public.

Students from both Humboldt and Mendocino Counties submitted colorful and artistic murals representing the 2012 RRLC theme: Imagine ... Deep in the Woods ...Growing, Nurturing & Harvesting, Timber Jobs for Tomorrow. Four Humboldt County Schools received ribbon awards. Brenda Yarnall's fourth-grade class at Cutten School won third place, and three honorable mention awards were given to Mrs. S. Coleman's kindergarten class and Becky Chapman's third-grade class at Fortuna Elementary, as well as Alita Sutherland's fourth-grade class at Hydesville Elementary.

To further higher educational pursuits, the conference awarded $9,000 in scholarships to promising forestry students.

Two HSU Forestry students, Karl Franci and Sam Tenneson, received Emanual Fritz Memorial Scholarships of $2,000 each. Three Jere Melo Memorial Scholarships of $500 were awarded to HSU forestry students Noah Coonen, Kelsey McGrath, and Ricky Schultz. Humboldt County native Sara Hylton, currently enrolled in the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Forestry Program with a minor in pre-law received the $2,000 Ron Adams Memorial Scholarship, and College of the Redwoods student Anthony Zuniga received the Kent Holmgren Memorial Scholarship at $500.

Keynote speaker Steven LeVesque of the Campbell Group LLC talked of diversification, saying it will benefit the forest products industry in the long run. "The forest sector is part of the energy solution," he said. "Biomass is not as sexy as solar or wind," he said, "but it provides good jobs and will contribute to energy independence." Noting that more young people are becoming detached and disconnected from the environment he told the gathering "keep bringing nature to the kids," referencing Education Day at the conference. "Those efforts do make a difference," LeVesque said.

The conference concluded Saturday with the Ladies Luncheon and the Past President's Axe Throw. Melo's widow Madeleine was awarded the Shining Star award at the Ladies Luncheon, where she said "Jere loved this conference ... he never missed it." She pledged to carry on his legacy of involvement and contributions to the timber industry and local communities.

A trio of Mendocino County past presidents were tops in the axe throw competition. First place went to Jim Holmes of Mendocino Redwood Company and Humboldt Redwood Company, second place was presented to Phil Shuster of Shuster Transportation, and third place went to John Iversen of Iversen Logging.

photo captions:

photos by Mary Bullwinkel/Beacon

1. Some of the state-of-the art logging equipment on display at the 74th annual Redwood Region Logging Conference in Ukiah.

2. Chris Baldo of Willits Redwood, and Redwood Region Logging Conference past president, operate a historic steam donkey piece of logging equipment.

3. Madeleine Melo, widow of Jere Melo, accepts the Shining Star award at the Redwood Region Logging Conference Ladies Luncheon.

4. Winners of the Past Presidents Axe Throw (l-r) John Iversen, Jim Holmes, and Phil Shuster