Travis Taylor to lead US loggers

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

What began for Travis Taylor of Goldonna, Louisiana as a teenage enterprise for earning spending money has culminated in his assuming the Presidency of the American Logging Council on October 6, 2012.

"My dad was in the pulpwood business back in the '60's when I was growing up," Taylor said. "To earn spending money, he would let Benny Martin and me haul a few loads of pulpwood when we were out of school."

"Back in those days, there were no skidders or loaders, so we had to cut, tote the wood to the truck and load it by hand," Taylor added. "I wasn't big enough to tote a very big stick of pulpwood but Benny was strong as an ox so if we could get a stick up on his shoulders, he could carry it to the truck."

Back in the early 1960's there was no American Logging Council or even a Louisiana Logging Council nor any of the other entities such as the Timbermen's Self Insured Fund or the Southern Loggers Cooperative, that Taylor became involved with in his long career as a logging contractor.

After graduating from Calvin High School in May of 1963, the two teenage pulpwood haulers decided to head for Louisiana Tech and attend its Forestry School.

"My Uncle Ardis Brewton, owned a saw mill in Winnfield. Also, I knew a few other people in the forest industry so it seemed logical choice to become a forester," Taylor explained.

Under the tutelage of legendary Forestry Professor Lloyd P. Blackwell at Louisiana Tech, Taylor got a large view of the forest industry and its future. One summer during college, Taylor fought forest fires in the mountains of Colorado for the US Forest Service.

After graduating from Tech in May of 1967, Taylor went to work for Joe Burns, another legendary forest industry operator, cruising timber. He worked alongside another young forester who would also have a long distinguished career, Mervin Parker.

"I was always willing to try new things to become a better logger," Taylor said. "I was working for Cavenham in 1989 when I bought my first used in-woods chipper. Andy Kepper was my Cavenham forester and he thought buying a chipper to make chips in the woods was exactly the right path to travel."

"In 1990, I bought a chipper that could make clean chips," Taylor recalled. The manufacturer told me I was the first logger in the US to operate a chipper to make clean chips in the woods. Over the next ten years, I bought two more chippers," Taylor added. "But I also kept a logging job going."

"In the late 1990's, I was looking for ways to improve my logging jobs when I came across the concept of cut-to-Length logging equipment made over in Finland,'' Taylor explained. "I was so sure that the equipment would work in the piney woods that I bought two sets from the Ponsee Company in 1997 sight unseen."

"Another pathway that I pursued that has worked well for me was buying government timber, I bought my first government timber from the J.K. Martin group. They had bought the sale but couldn't get it logged, so I bought it from them. Since then, I've bought numerous tracts of government timber directly, The Kisatchie has been a great resource for me in my logging career. I've done a lot of thinning on Forest Service land during those years," Taylor noted. "They do have their rules and regulations that you have to follow, but you can do that and still make money. The Forest Service is very concerned about how the area you logged looks after you have finished your job," Taylor emphasized. "I just finished a government tract down on the west side of Highway 167, a few miles north of Williana. You can get a good idea of what the Forest Service expects a job to look like after you finish by looking at that job north of Williana," Taylor said.

Prior to 1999, any time that Taylor took off from working in the woods usually centered on going to logging equipment trade shows. However, in 1999, he was asked by the Director of the Louisiana Logging Council to be a candidate for Vice-President of the Council. This was the "Coming Out-Of-The-Woods-Time'' for Travis Taylor. He remained active in the Council and eventually moved up to president, where he served two years.

From that position, Travis became the Southern delegate to the American Logging Council (ALC). and a few years later, was elected secretary and then vice president, to become eligible for the presidency of the ALC which he will assume on October 6 at the 2012 convention in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

In 2002, Taylor was elected to the board of directors of the Timbermen's Self Insured Fund in Winnfield to replace his teenage buddy, Benny Martin who passed away in 2001. In 2002, Taylor was a co-founder of Vanguard Synfuels, LLC in Pollock. In 2004, as diesel fuel prices began to tick-upward, Taylor almost single-handily organized the Southern Loggers Cooperative.

"The Southern Loggers Cooperative is a prime example of what can happen when loggers work together for their own benefit," Taylor emphasized. "We buy and sell millions of gallons of diesel fuel each year, saving the loggers thousands of dollars each year."

"From our humble start with one fueling station on Thomas Mill Road in Winnfield, we have 18 fueling stations in a half dozen states with four more stations in the development stage," Taylor added. "We now have 1,200 Southern Loggers Coop members and continue to grow."

"In the 1990's while concentrating on my jobs in the woods, I did a lot of thinking about the plight of the logger and where the industry was headed," Taylor admitted. "When I got the opportunity to get involved in the Louisiana Logging Council in '99, I decided to do the very best job I could to help the logging industry. I've got a few positive things that I'm going to work very hard on to accomplish as President of the ALC, this coming year," Taylor concluded.