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Polk's timber industry visionary

Rickreall's Jim Gahlsdorf recognized as AOL's 'Logger of the Year'

Jim Gahlsdorf, the owner of Gahlsdorf Logging in Rickreall, was named the Association of Oregon Loggers “Logger of the Year” for his dedication to the industry.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Jim Gahlsdorf, the owner of Gahlsdorf Logging in Rickreall, was named the Association of Oregon Loggers “Logger of the Year” for his dedication to the industry.

February 11, 2014

RICKREALL — It didn’t take a young Jim Gahlsdorf long to discover his dream career.

Now the owner of Gahlsdorf Logging in Rickreall, he was 17 years old working on an Oregon Department of Forestry summer logging crew near Mehama.

“I always kind of liked being out in the woods doing the hiking, fishing and camping thing,” he said last week. “I think when I set my first choker (the cable that moves a log once it is cut and delimbed), I thought that was pretty slick, to watch a big old log move.”

Gahlsdorf continued to work in the woods, and in 1985 incorporated Gahlsdorf Logging as a one-man show. He worked small operations, mostly thinning jobs, until the mid-1990s, when the company began to grow.

Now Gahlsdorf Logging has 35 employees and looks to be gradually emerging from the extended downturn the industry suffered since the housing market crash.

In the nearly 30 years since launching his company, Gahlsdorf has done much more than simply work in the trees, though.

Gahlsdorf for decades has been involved in helping educate the next generation of loggers and foresters, has been a strong advocate of the industry before lawmakers and forest policy makers, and has been actively engaged in timber and logging associations.

A group of forestry students attend a tour of a Gahlsdorf logging operation. Jim Gahlsdorf and his employees often lead educational tours allowing the next generation of foresters to see how loggers work in the field.

Jim Gahlsdorf/for the Itemizer-Observer

A group of forestry students attend a tour of a Gahlsdorf logging operation. Jim Gahlsdorf and his employees often lead educational tours allowing the next generation of foresters to see how loggers work in the field.

In recognition of his dedication to the industry and its workers — current and future — the Association of Oregon Loggers (AOL) recently named Gahlsdorf its “Logger of the Year.”

“This award is given to the AOL member who has made a significant contribution to our association, our industry and their community,” read a press release announcing the award.

“They (award winners) consistently contribute time and energy making our industry as successful as it can be and give selflessly to making AOL a successful organization.”

Gahlsdorf was unaware he would receive the award until AOL’s annual conference in January.

“Nobody does the kind of stuff that we do to get an award, but it's nice to get the award,” Gahlsdorf said of the recognition. “I’m honored to be included in the group.”

Education of future loggers and foresters, as well as the public, is important to Gahlsdorf.

“Eventually, we are going to be working for the people who come out of Oregon State (University),” he said. “They are going to be the foresters of the next generation. They are going to be managing what I do, and I think it’s important for them to see our side of it as much as they can, the practical side of it.”

Gahlsdorf also believes public outreach is key to contradicting the perception loggers don’t respect the environment or value conservation.

He does see the perception shifting. He said in the many Oregon communities whose economy used to depend on timber, new industries — mainly tourism — are just not rising up to replace it.

“People are starting to realize it has more value for doing something besides just looking at it, and I mean in a sustainable manner,” he said. “I spent my youth in the wilderness. No one I know in the industry wants to cut down every tree. But for communities like Gold Beach, tourism isn’t going to work, or Oakridge. Those are not tourist meccas.”

Gahlsdorf will continue to work on behalf of the industry — as well as his “dream job” until his company has fully recovered. Only then would he think of stepping away.

“I would like to get back to where we were prior to the crash of ’07 or ’08 ... that’s still taking some work, and not just for us,” he said. “I know some people are still in the recovery mode from that.”

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