The Forest Around Us



Bill Moore

Big is beautiful

.... Is it Mr. Smith? Is big really beautiful when we talk about the big companies—and I mean the real biggies—in this forest industry of ours? I’d like to talk about this bigness in an objective way because bigness is a reality. To understand this forest industry — and the public in general does not—we should look at this aspect of the forest around us and develop thoughts on why so big? How big? And should they be bigger? Or possibly smaller?
....Now before someone in a board room, in a room at the top, thinks this is the seed of a new revolution a la Castro, let me assure them it is not. But why are there so few independents, contractors and so called smaller loggers and smaller millmen than there used to be a decade or so ago?
....In the West the six or seven biggies every so often announce the acquisition of another new plant or marketing avenue. It is certainly no secret that the number of independent logging cont-ractors has shrunk to the smallest number in recent logging history. This rise and fall needs to be looked at if for no other reason than so many of us have such a stake in the over all good and health of this industry.
....Is “big is beautiful” the byword of those men and women who work for the big firms? Or is it even a fair question to ask? Sure it is, for anything is fair to ask in a world of skyjackers, terrorists, revolutions and assorted strange events that are causing us great change. Are the chaps in the room at


the top mindful of those more industrial peaceful days when the firm was smaller, life was simpler and the chain of command was shorter? Remember, chaps?
....Is big beautiful to the middle line management of the largies? I take my coral hard hat off to the men who directly manage the big logging camps on this coast of B.C. They have to be men of varied talents, line walkers, and crystal ball gazers to wade through the multi problems handed to them by upstairs and downstairs.
....Logging camps of the big chaps are often small towns, full of small town problems, but more vulnerable to criti-cism because it’s so easy and so “with it” to criticize Mr. Big. Why, heck, we used to criticize hippies, porno movies and traffic jams—now we accept them all as part of our life—except Mr. Big. He is still vulnerable, and I suppose that’s why he develops thicker skin than most of us. He has to.
....One should feel a bit sorry for the line of command it takes to run some of these big outfits. Certainly not like your average small logging outfit where a few lads or possibly one do the looking after. It’s said that in some big camps there are more bosses and foremen than there are work force. Oh, I don’t really believe that. Equal maybe—but not more.
....We are seeing some of these large company camps and towns disappear as the communicating roads get better and the populations increase in the outback. I really don’t think big is

beautiful to those in the room at the top when they look over their house-hold bills that it takes to sustain these camps. But as the great James Durante said, “That’s the situation that prevails.”
....And what of these small towns — bunkhouses, cookhouses, family homes and assorted living accom-modations? Is big beautiful for the people who live there? Often the family homes in camps are charged much lower rents than normal for the accommodation. And the single man who eats in a company cookhouse pays the tidy sum of $2.50 per day for food and lodging! Why one T-bone steak eats that up and I’ve seen many a lean young logger tackle three of them at a supper table. Logging camp cookhouses prepare some of the best food in the land.
....Camps have changed drastically over the past decade and the logging people in them expect and should get the amenities of life if they are to produce with skill, keep their pride and live in the remote areas. So for this the company pays a big price for beautiful. I’m sure as the systems for big camps were formed no one in the room at the top ever believed that one day the price of camps would come so high. Big is beautiful.?
....Not necessarily, and I think we shall see a reversal of the big camps—because they could price themselves out of existence. The trend will have to be toward a return of more independent contractors with
British Columbia Lumberman, November, 1975

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smaller camps and smaller problems. Here the chain of command and costing can be better handled. For a time in the past it seemed as though the biggies wanted to do nearly all of their own logging, but it would now seem that they are quite willing to hand over some of their headaches to a smaller company that can run the job more intimately.
....I remember quite a few years ago having lunch with a good friend who was a man in the room at the top. He stated his problem was that he couldn’t find good reliable contractors to do the job. That there was nobody around who wanted to finance and start up a small camp. Too often they had been stuck by small outfits that went at it in too “gypo” a fashion. I replied that possibly he had been looking in the wrong place for his contractors, why not look into his own company—it was a big one—and pluck out some bright young foreman or woods boss? Finance the fellow to some good equipment and let him go at it. But I reminded him to give the fellow some rope and don’t play god with him. Since the fellow has put in time for the company as a boss he should know exactly what the company standards are and what the company expects of him. What better contractor?
....Our world is full of big today. And whereas in yesterdays the big, be it country, company or cause, was the boss and its decisions were seldom challenged; today the small defy the bigs and the reasons can be anything from “I don’t like your words” to “I don’t like your actions.” It would remind one of a whole pack of puppies snapping at a St. Bernard.
....There are big companies in this forest industry of ours and their very bigness leaves them open to all forms of critics. Whether they will stand the strain of bigness over the next decades will certainly be a test for those gentlemen in the rooms at the top. I don’t envy them.
....And so Mr. Smith, big is not beautiful in this forest around us — unless you are talking about tall trees. It’s downright tough sledding to be a biggie.

Keep out of the bight,


British Columbia Lumberman, November, 1975