STIHL TIMBERSPORTS event manager, Matt Chagnon, of Granite State Lumberjack Shows, Inc., is a professor, a lumberjack and a conservationist. STIHL TIMBERSPORTS.com caught up with him for a Q&A.
STIHL TIMBERSPORTS.com: So, do you consider yourself a conservationist?
Matt Chagnon: A forester is a conservationist – without conservation, you’re out of work. If you don’t conserve what you have, there’s no more forest left to manage, so you’ll be looking for a new job. There’s got to be something to cut next year and the year after and 100 years from now, so it’s all about conservation and sustainability. We’re pretty fortunate in a good part of this country, certainly in the Northeast, that we have forests where if you cut in the forest, it’s going to start growing back immediately.
STIHL TIMBERSPORTS.com: When did the sustainable harvest practices for wood that’s used in competition and wood recycling start?
Matt Chagnon: I would say, probably from the beginning. Any good forestry operation is sustainable. I think anybody that we’ve ever worked with, it’s always been sustainable forestry. The trees that are cut have always been part of a managed forest, so it’s part of a management plan that it’s time for those trees to be cut.
In the early days, we’d try to cut the wood around the Northeast here, but we just can’t find the white pine that we need, because we need to get blocks that are 26 inches long with no knots in them. Here in the Northeast, our growing seasons are so different from year-to-year, you might get one year where a tree grows 24 inches and you’ve got a nice, clear piece and the next year, it only grows six inches and you’ve got knots six inches apart, so that’s not any good. But we’ve found timber down in Ohio, and that stuff grows 24 to 30 inches every single year, so you really get better utilization of the tree and there’s a lot less waste than you would get out of trees here in the northeast. We’ve probably been getting wood out of Ohio for ten years, or so.
Once they come in, they’re log lengths and then we cut them to length and turn them on the lathe to get the right diameter and we wrap them in plastic to keep the moisture in – you need to have moisture in wood for it to cut well. The sawmill in Ohio is just cutting the trees and numbering the pieces because we have to match the wood so all the blocks from each pool come from the same tree.
When we turn the logs, there’s shavings that come off the outside of the block and that all goes to a company called Waste Management, which I think is nationwide, which is just a big waste disposal company. They bring a 30-yard dumpster and we have to make sure that nothing goes in it but wood and then they take all of the shavings and stuff that come off the wood and they take it back to their facility and grind it up some more until it becomes mulch. That’s how we recycle it.
STIHL TIMBERSPORTS.com: So, I hear you can judge the health of a tree by site. I’m sure that, in addition to a ton of experience, being able to do that requires a certain amount of love for your job. Out of all the jobs you have that are related to forestry – teaching, coaching, working in the field, putting on competitions – which one is your favorite?
Matt Chagon: That’s a tough question – I would really say all of it. I love teaching; this is my 31st or 32nd year here at the Thompson School (at the University of New Hampshire), something like that, and it’s great teaching young people. They’re full of energy. They want to learn, so that’s exciting.
I’m seeing people now – actually I just saw a kid walk by, this is his second year at the school. He had a job last summer working for a timber harvesting company; the owner was in the very first class I taught here, and he now has a very successful timber harvesting company here in New Hampshire. He also has hired a forester, full-time on his staff, who works with clients to help manage their land and make sure everything is done sustainably. That forester that he hired is another graduate of mine from maybe 15 years ago and now the next generation is going to work for them, too.
It’s very rewarding to see people who have come through your program and they’ve gone out and they’ve got good jobs, good careers and families and they’re just doing great and having a good time, really enjoying what they do based on what they’ve learned here. So that, for me, is very rewarding.
You have to get old to do that, unfortunately, but it’s still fun to see.
I would have to say that when I get up in the morning and I look in the mirror when I’m brushing my teeth, I see that I’m 55 and I’m getting gray, but once I stop looking in the mirror, I really don’t feel much older than the 20 year olds, so that’s a pretty good feeling.