Did you know that Maryland loggers do a good job caring for the woods?
Updated: May 23
Meet Bruce Barnes, 2020 Appalachian Logger of the Year and owner of Barnes Logging in Clements, MD
A citizen steward and logger for over 40 years, Bruce Barnes of St. Mary's County has spent a lot of time in the forest. Like many loggers, he grew up in the woods. The 2nd generation logger started running a dozer to build landings, roads, and trails in the forest the summer between 4th and 5th grades. He continued working with his father learning how to properly fell trees and use horses to skid them out. Despite his decades in the field, he still savors every moment he has, walking the woods of Maryland and taking it all in. He continues to cut every tree he harvests by hand with a Stihl chainsaw but appreciates the increase in production he's seen over the years with other mechanized and technologically advanced equipment. Early on, he learned that taking care of the land, people, and equipment are all equally important parts of his job.
Mr. Barnes is an active MD-DE Master Logger. Working closely with landowners and Maryland Forest Service staff, he walks each and every property with owners to listen and learn their forest harvest objectives while noting every detail of tree species, soil types, and wet, water-logged areas. Barnes adheres to OSHA's harvesting and safety standards and takes pride in sharing his chainsaw safety knowledge, especially with the new generation of loggers.
He started his own logging business immediately after high school, and Barnes' lifelong endeavor has only grown since then, with exports to Europe and Asia the last 15 years. It is a family business. His wife Kathy has handled the bookkeeping, scheduling, and payroll for the past 37 years. He acknowledges her as his "most valuable partner in the profession." His son-in-law occasionally helps as a truck driver and/or skidder operator. Export markets have been a challenge with the recent ban on Methyl Bromide at the Port of Baltimore.
Barnes is still hands-on in the field, whether it's building all the roads, log decks, and skid trails on all timber sale sites or his masterful select cuts. He follows all the Sustainable Forestry guidelines and forest management plans, knowing to harvest the trees in a responsible, sustainable way to further improve the renewable, regenerative resource that is timber. One of the tools of the trade, a bulldozer, is always kept on-site in case Bruce needs to deal with any issues that come up during harvest. Bruce says 'logging has come a long way in Maryland in the past 20 years. "BMPs are a good thing, and need to be followed and are being followed for sediment and erosion control." He is diligent and determined always to do a good job. As he puts it, "one bad job can ruin your reputation and cost you future jobs."
Meeting landowner needs is of utmost importance to Barnes in his work, and he will see each harvest through to the end, working with landowners to use the leftover wood from a site to create brush piles for wildlife habitat or build burn piles or cut firewood. Woody biomass markets are something Southern Maryland could use more of to help better utilize wood.
Coordinating with foresters, Barnes ensures all county permits are handled correctly and leaves forest buffers where needed, as well as selectively cutting trees that foresters flag for removal. He has his Maryland Erosion and Sediment Control specifications for Forestry Harvest Operations, also known as the Forestry Green Card, and a Maryland's Forest Products Operator's License. Barnes knows the ins and outs of the Forest Conservation & Management Program and is always happy to explain details to landowners and refer them to their local forester. If Bruce had a wish list, a "more streamlined and uniform permitting process across all counties" would be at the top of the list.
One of the most enjoyable parts of Barnes' work is how each landowner is unique in their goals and objectives, and each forest stand is unique in its own way. He often tells property owners to let the trees grow more, adding diameter and establishing an even more productive harvest site.
With such good work, Barnes has been recognized in multiple ways over the years. In 2007, he was awarded the Director's Commendation for eradication efforts regarding the emerald ash borer, which has been causing mass mortality among ash trees across 30+ states. During the eradication work in Maryland, 5 independent loggers were brought in to remove ash in areas of infestation. Ash grows in environmentally sensitive areas such as non-tidal wetlands with very wet soils. These areas were Barnes' challenge to tackle, and the lifetime logger did just that. He rented a specialized KMC Koo-track machine after doing a lot of his own research and was able to access these more challenging sites and remove the ash.
Beyond his work in the field, Barnes is an active community member and has been a St. Mary's Fair Board member for 11 years. The fair's wood carving demonstrations use Barnes' own logs, which he donates every year, and the carver's creation is auctioned off to raise money for the fair. The fair also gives him a chance to get back to his roots as he enjoys participating in horse-pulling competitions.
Bruce has been highlighted in the MD-DE Master Logger newsletter, The Logger, and was also featured by the Harry Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology in a video about sustainable timber harvesting and forest health. He even went so far as to help the video filming crew find a suitable location for shooting.
Most recently, all the decades of his fine work were acknowledged in 2020, when Barnes received the Maryland Logger of the Year and the Appalachian Logger of The Year, a regional recognition by the Forest Resource Association. Bruce knows that the work he does is called Timber Stand Improvement for a reason. It's helping the forest along. As he puts it, "after opening the canopy up, it doesn't take long to see the seeds begin to sprout that had been lying dormant on the forest floor once the sunshine can filter through." With loggers like Barnes on the frontlines of forest management and timber harvesting, our woodlands and natural resources have an ally and great steward to rely on time and time again.
Bruce Barnes pictured with Consulting Forester John Houser and MFA Executive Director Beth Hill
on a logging job in Southern Maryland.
Photo Credit: EDWIN REMSBERG PHOTOGRAPHS
Project Support: RURAL MARYLAND COUNCIL
Growing for Good: Maryland Foresters produced by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology
LINKS TO LEARN MORE:
Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology- Growing for Good: Farming and Forestry in Maryland Report
FRA Appalachian Region News
Logger of the Year
List of Maryland Master Loggers
St. Mary's County Fair
Bruce and Kathy Barnes shown receiving the FRA Regional Outstanding Logger Award for the Appalachian Region at the Loggers Field Day in Western MD last fall.
Bruce said, " it was a honor to be nominated by his fellow loggers for such an award."