Bob Short (Logging and Reforestation)

Short Logging and Reforestation Services Emida, Idaho  

With his family well into its second century of logging in North Idaho, Robert A. “Bob” Short of Emida figures his great-grandfather (Frank) would be pretty amazed at today’s logging practices. “My great-granddad and granddad (Francis) worked with crosscuts and horses up to the time of using dozers to skid, with very few restrictions. My dad (Robert L.) started with chainsaws and dozers with more rules,” Bob says. “I started with chainsaws, dozers and skidders and moved on to feller bunchers, processors, cut-to-length and hydraulic loaders. The old-timers would not believe all the rules and restrictions we have today.”

Five generations of Shorts, including Bob’s three sons Kirk, Jody and Chad (daughter Stacie works in a law office) have engaged in some aspect of logging since Frank, a gold prospector turned teamster and sawyer, moved to North Idaho in 1901. For several decades thereafter, both Frank and Francis harvested logs bound for McGoldrick Lumber Co. mills. Spokane-based McGoldrick held large timber holdings and logging operations throughout the Inland Northwest from 1900-1950. Later, in the 1950s, Bob’s dad bought green slip sales from the U.S. Forest Service and sold logs to Idaho Veneer, Atlas Tie and Anderson-Vance.

In 1960, tagging along with his grandfather, father and uncles, Bob, then 14, started his own logging career, skidding and sawing at the landings for his dad. “My mother told my dad that I could help him in the woods as long as I didn’t saw,” Bob recalls. “I was a pretty good sawyer by the time she found out what I was doing! I learned from my elders, and I learned from my mistakes.”

After high school, aware of his parents’ reservations toward his working in the woods, Bob spent 18 months studying electronics in Denver. But, the logging lure was too much for this consummate outdoorsman. He returned to Emida, eventually starting his own business in 1972. The company now specializes in logging and reforestation. Bob’s crew has harvested timber in the same area where his dad and granddad worked, using skidding dozers, a hydraulic loader, cut-to-length system and line machine.

“We log, build and maintain roads, build fire trails, pile brush, do site prep and cut brush,” he explains. “We have two shops in Emida, and when in full production, we have a full-time mechanic and average just under 20 employees.” At times, the company’s site prep machines travel as far away as California to create tree-planting sites. As company owner, Bob’s workday spans from 4:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Daily rounds include checking with crew members to see what they need, providing parts, supplies, assistance, etc. wherever needed, connecting with out-of-state site-prep operators and visiting with employees at the end of the day to discuss problems, progress and needs for the next day. He visits with foresters via telephone in the evenings to receive  instructions and to convey updated information to the crew. After he calls it a day, his wife Gail, who runs the office, fields any additional calls.

“I guess you’d say that our philosophy is always to do a job to be proud of,” Bob says. “Do it right the first time if you can. Keep at it until you get it right.” He advises young people thinking about a logging career to blend their preparation by learning from older forest workers, developing a work ethic and learning to operate every piece of equipment possible. “Keep yourself educated on new technology,” he says, “learn about new trends, such as biomass and keep current with the latest rules and regulations.”

As he continues to work in and enjoy the North Idaho forests, where he’s spent most of his life,
Bob Short can definitely take pride in a rich family lineage of woods workers. Nevertheless, he also shoulders a deep sense of responsibility toward preserving the environment that has sustained his family for so long. “It’s not an easy job, and it can be frustrating, but  it can also be rewarding,” he says. “We are the stewards to the forests. It is our responsibility to keep our forests healthy. Doing so provides a renewable resource, a home for wildlife, enjoyable recreation areas and jobs for future generations.”

Want to know more?

º Timber Harvesting Machines & Systems.

º Associated Logging Contractors, Inc.

º Bureau of Labor Statistics.

º Logging Equipment Operators Skills.

º Best Management Practices for Loggers.

º A History of the Early Settlers of Emida.