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LPJA supports work-together amendment


Three speakers were featured in the annual seminar of the Louisiana Logging Council held in Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino in Shreveport on Aug. 28.

They talked about police jury issues, rapidly developing drone technologies and developing markets for loggers.

Malcolm Sibley, president of the Louisiana Logging Council, thanked the sponsors: Lott Oil, McGriff Insurance, Sabine State Bank and Southern Loggers Co-op.

He introduced Guy Cormier first. Cormier has served in various positions in police juries and the legislature; currently, he is assistant executive director of the Louisiana Police Jury Association. He gave an update from the parish police jury perspective.

On Nov. 6, there will be six amendments on the ballot. Constitutional Amendment No. 3 is an amendment that makes it legal for police juries to cooperate with each other.

This might make reason stare, but the Louisiana constitution states police juries are allowed to work together only during officially declared natural disasters. Any other time, they are not allowed to cooperate. If this ballot item passes, the parish police juries can cooperate any time.

Cormier gave an example from the time he served on the St. Martin Parish Police Jury. A neighboring parish had a long-reach excavator and it shared it among parishes as needed. Later, he discovered this violated the state constitution.

However, during declared natural disasters, this same sharing is legal.

Amendment No. 3 will make sharing equipment legal all the time.

Cormier asked people who were in the audience to vote in favor of Constitutional Amendment No. 3, so that parishes can work together more efficiently and economically.

When legislative bills do not pass, the authors often turn the bills into Study Resolutions. Some of the study commissions the Louisiana Police Jury Association will serve on includes sewer system improvement needs, preserving ancestral burial grounds and whether to require CPR training of 911 dispatchers, which is not required now.

Of course, paying for maintenance of parish roads and bridges is a major headache for police juries. Cormier said when he was St. Martin Parish president, he “had” to use severance tax collections and video poker revenue for the parish’s general fund.

The general fund revenue in St. Martin Parish at the time was only $400,000, but the parish’s general expenses were $3 million, including $1 million just to operate the jails.

This is a persistent and growing problem, he said, especially considering 73 percent of the road miles in Louisiana are parish roads and it costs an average of $250,000 per mile to “re-do” a road.

The backlog is creeping up to $14 billion, he said. That is why the Louisiana Police Jury Association supported the gasoline tax increase on the ballot in 2017.

However, as Agriculture Commissioner Strain pointed out in the question-and-answer session afterward, the tax increase was voted down because the public doesn’t trust the funds will actually be spent on roads.

State Forester Wade Dubea asked about silvicultural exemptions to permits, similar to those provided to agriculture trucks. It turns out the Police Jury Association “is OK with that,” Cormier said.

Cormier pointed out House Concurrent Resolution 3 by state Rep. Jack McFarland, who is a logger and past president of the Louisiana Logging Council, and state Sens. Francis Thompson and Michael Walsworth. The document creates “a task force to study and make recommendations relative to state and local regulations, fees and taxes on commercial transporters of oilfield and agricultural products and the funding of repairs to parish roads …”

The task force will consist of two representatives, two senators, many agency heads and others, including the commissioner of agriculture and the president of the Louisiana Logging Council. The state keeps 80 percent of oil and gas tax revenue and the parishes get 20 percent, but that 20 percent is capped at $950,000 (to be shared by 64 parishes).

The second speaker in the seminar was Johnny Thompson of Landmark Spatial Solutions, who spoke about the application and regulations of drones in forestry.

Hobby and commercial licenses are easy to obtain and critical in preventing accidents. The Remote Pilot Certificate requires 10 to 20 hours of preparation online and is easy to obtain.

Drones save a lot of time in examining for bug spots, diseases, storm damage, harvesting BMP compliance, streamside management zones, regeneration, planting, beaver damage, controlled burns and site preparation, Thompson said. He also talked about the different kinds of imagery possible and the kinds of information that can be gleaned from this imagery, such as log deck volumes, tree heights, tree counts and seedling survival.

The last speaker was Robert Hanry of Conifex. Until two weeks earlier, he was sawmill manager at El Dorado, Arkansas. Now, he is in charge of expanding operations in the United States for this Canadian company that already has three mills in this country – El Dorado and Glenwood, Arkansas, and Cross City, Florida, producing 500 million board feet annual production. The exciting part is that he is looking for locations to build three more sawmills in the South, preferably in Louisiana. This is really good news for loggers and forest landowners.

Dr. Shaun Tanger of the LSU AgCenter also spoke about a website by the Texas Forest Service called My Land Management Connector.

It allows small landowners to group together for services such as timber harvesting, site preparation and tree planting. As private land ownerships get smaller while mills get bigger, this allows landowners to have acreages large enough to attract contracts. This website is expanding to include Louisiana.

As usual, what we learned is so enormous that there is no room to include it all in this article. If you missed it, you should have been there! Next year, watch for the announcements of the LFA’s Annual Meeting in August. (C.F. “Niels” de Hoop is an Associate Professor at the Louisiana Forest Products Development Center, School of Renewable Natural Resources, Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, LSU AgCenter. Contact: cdehoop@lsu.edu; 225-578-4242.)

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