Claire Rogan is learning what sustainable harvesting means.

Claire Rogan
Claire Rogan

When Claire Rogan tells people she is a logger, she gets a range of reactions — anything from a sense of camaraderie from those who live the same lifestyle, to anger from people who think logging is utterly destructive. But for the Oregon State sophomore and University Honors College student, education has been the key to her understanding of the practice, its focus on sustainability, as well as the way to improvements.

“It’s like mountaintop coal removal in West Virginia,” she says. “People usually don’t say ’this is bad and we should do this instead.’ If you’re going to have a strong opinion about something, you need to go in scientifically and say ’this is why, and this is how.’”

Rogan is learning how to answer questions about logging and its impacts as a dual-degree major in forest and civil engineering. And as a member of the Student Logging Crew in the College of Forestry, Rogan gets hands-on experience working with a crew sustainably managing stands in the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest. “Pretty much any logging you see in Oregon is sustainably done. People are becoming more aware of working with, not just in, the environment,” says Rogan.

Working with the environment — for Rogan and others — means creating forest health, says Jeff Wimer, who heads the student crew. “We thin, taking out trees that are dead and dying and leaving a stand that will grow healthily,” he says. They also identify stands where growth has stalled and decide whether to harvest depending on the market and demand, the whole time keeping stream and water health in mind. “The majority of loggers love and enjoy the land where they work,” says Wimer. “They wouldn’t be there otherwise.”

The same is true of Rogan. Growing up in rural West Virginia, she always loved being in the woods. She learned the names of trees from her grandfather. She drove a tractor around her family’s small farm, and her parents instilled in her a deep regard for the natural world. She liked math, too, and science and engineering, which is why OSU was ideal. “The forest and civil engineering dual degree was perfect for me. It was exactly what I wanted to do,” she says.

As a member of the logging crew, Rogan learned to run all aspects of a logging operation, from planning to the actual harvest. She learned to set chokers (a chain or cable used to haul logs from the woods) and cut timber. She graduated from using what she calls “a teeny tiny saw” to a 32-inch bar. Rogan appreciated how she wasn’t treated differently on the crew because she is a woman — and still a minority in the field.

For Rogan, the College of Forestry became such a home away from home that she applied to become an ambassador for it. Rogan talks to alumni at events, and helps recruit prospective students. “It’s so much fun for me,” she says. “I love getting to tell students how awesome it is. It’s provided so many opportunities for me.”

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