Tom Yager: Feeding the Beast

Foresters are the traffic cops of the woods. They evaluate wood lots for their economic potential and ecological value and develop management plans that combine sustainable cutting with habitat protection. But much of their mandate is to think generationally. How can today’s forests be improved by eliminating “weeds” and by promoting high-value species? Tom Yager, the dean of area foresters, has worked for A. Johnson in Bristol, one of the state’s largest mills, for 40-plus years. His job, very simply, is to “feed the beast”—a mill that directly employs 30-plus people and requires a constant diet of logs. The following documentation illustrates two of his jobs: laying out access roads to new wood lots, and planting pine seedlings for harvesting in 50-plus years. 

Most Don’t Read the Landscape

Most loggers think they can put in a road, but there are only a few who really know what they are doing. Most don’t read the landscape. They make the roads too steep or the turns too tight. They don’t get rid of the water the way they should. Ultimately, the old timers are the best because they have built a lot of roads and have a good feel for the machine and the earth. You need a lot of experience to be able to look at the ground, at the side of a hill, at the roots of trees, and then stick your blade in and get a feel for what you’re running over. 

The exhibit documentation illustrates two of his jobs: laying out access roads to new wood lots, above, and planting pine seedlings for harvesting in 50-plus years, below.