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Washington, D.C. — To help family logging businesses address workforce shortages in the forest products industry, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), joined by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), led a bipartisan and bicameral group of 16 lawmakers today calling on the Department of Labor (DOL) to take action. The members urged DOL to grant a regulatory exemption that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to learn the logging trade under parental supervision.

“The forest products industry is an economic driver that provides good-paying jobs in many rural communities across the country,” the lawmakers wrote. “Much like farming and ranching, the timber harvesting profession is often a family run business where the practice and techniques of harvesting and transporting forest products from the forest to receiving mills is passed down from one generation to the next. Unfortunately, young men and women in families who own and operate timber harvesting companies are denied the opportunity to work and learn the family trade until the age of eighteen.”

The changes requested in the members’ letter mirror those proposed in the Future in Logging Careers Act, which would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 so that 16- and 17-year-olds are allowed to work in certain logging operations under parental supervision. The legislation was introduced by Sens. Risch and King (I-Maine) as S. 818 in the Senate and by Reps. Golden and Thompson (R-Pa.) as H.R. 1785 in the House.

“The economic vitality of our nation’s forest products industry is essential not only to these local communities and regions but also to the nation’s manufacturing base,” continued the lawmakers. “That is why we introduced the bipartisan and bicameral Future in Logging Careers Act. Absent congressional action, we encourage the DOL to consider granting an exemption to allow sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds to work in mechanized logging operations...”

The farming and ranching industry already enjoy a similar exemption. Such a change would help address the workforce shortage in the logging industry and help to prepare young Americans for careers in timber harvesting. Logging is complicated and technical work that demands training and experience that many colleges do not offer. Forcing family members to wait until the age of eighteen to begin the intensive on-the-ground training that logging demands denies many small family businesses the help they need, and many aspiring young loggers critical professional experience. 

A copy of this letter can be found here.

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