The forest products industry is a vital component of Virginia's economy, and logging businesses, as the suppliers of raw material, are an extremely important part of this industry. How they operate, their challenges, and their ability to adapt to changing economic conditions are of interest to the entire forest products industry. To further our understanding of how Virginia loggers operate their businesses, we developed and mailed a repeatable survey instrument during the summer of 2009 to participants currently enrolled in the Virginia Sustainable Harvesting and Resource Professional logger program. Due to Virginia's distinct geographic makeup and its impact on logging system design and characteristics, results were segmented by three physiographic regions: mountains, piedmont, and coastal plain. Ninety-eight percent of respondents were men, 94 percent were Caucasian, and 49 years was the average age. Logging businesses operated with an average of 1.2 crews and 3.3 workers per crew, which varied across each region of the state. The type of harvesting system used also varied between regions as did the products harvested, production levels, use of technology, and time spent planning harvests and implementing best management practices. Business owners also indicated that their greatest challenges were finding markets for their products, the increasing costs of fuel and operation, and the prospect of fewer markets in the future. Survey results provided further insight into the characteristics of Virginia logging businesses and the challenges they face, while establishing a baseline dataset for future comparison.

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Author notes

The authors are, respectively, Assistant Professor, Forest Operations/Engineering; Extension Associate and Virginia SHARP Logger Program Coordinator; Assistant Professor and Forest Management Extension Specialist; and Graduate Research Assistant, Forest Operations and Business, all in the Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Blacksburg (bolding@vt.edu, sbarrett@vt.edu, jfmunsel@vt.edu, mgroover@vt.edu). This article was received for publication in January 2010. Article no. 10720.