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With recent storms and heavy rain, loggers say working conditions have never been more difficult

A green loader truck carries a bundle of logs as it drives past a massive pile of logs.
Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
A truck carries logs at the Irving sawmill in Ashland, Maine.

Loggers said their operating conditions have never been more difficult, with recent storms, heavy rain and mild conditions over the last 18 months.

A recent survey found that 50 Maine harvesters and haulers lost at least $2.6 million in income from the Dec. 18 storm.

And Dana Doran, director of Professional Logging Contractors of the Northeast, said most Maine loggers worked just four weeks this winter.

"Most of them had to shut down by the last week of February for the winter, so it's just been a rollercoaster of a ride for all of them, starting with that Dec. 18 storm, but really going back to the winter of 2022-2023, because we never had frozen ground then, either," he said.

Doran compared the last 18 months to mud season, where the ground was too soft and saturated, and loggers couldn't access the land they needed to harvest. When snow did fall this winter, it melted quickly.

"We haven't seen anything like this in recent memory, and that's going back decades, and almost probably a century for many of the family business who are multi-generation," he said.

Maine's congressional delegation has introduced a bill that would create a new program to help loggers who have lost income due to natural disasters. Unlike farmers and fishermen, loggers are not eligible for federal disaster aid when the president or governor makes an emergency declaration.

Under the delegation's proposed measure, logging businesses could apply for disaster aid if they've experienced a 10% loss in revenue or volume compared to the previous year due to flooding, fire or drought.