Earl-St-JohnMichigan logging businessman Earl St. John, Jr., whose impact on the U.S. logging industry was legendary and whose efforts to improve the public image of logging were considerable, died of declining health complications on September 13. He was 79.

A resident of the Upper Peninsula town of Spaulding, St. John founded St. John Forest Products, Inc. in 1962 and developed it into one of the nation’s premier logging entities. In recent years he had largely turned management of the company over to his son, Tom.

A highly successful third generation logger, St. John was the first logger to serve on the board of the American Pulpwood Assn. but he resigned after an affiliated group, the American Forest & Paper Assn., adopted the controversial Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) with little logger input. Meanwhile, St. John, long an outspoken critic of traditional wood procurement practices, helped form the American Loggers Council (ALC), partly in protest over the way the SFI was developed and partly over the way it was implemented. He served as the ALC’s first president.

Danny Dructor, Executive Vice President of the ALC, offered this statement: “Earl was a leader and visionary in our industry. He not only was instrumental in the formation of the American Loggers Council but also became a mentor to many up-and-coming loggers throughout this country. Earl spoke his mind and was always well spoken. Those of us fortunate enough to know Earl came to respect and appreciate the time that we had together. Earl will be missed not by just a few, but by this industry as a whole.”

St. John was an innovator who willingly embraced emerging technology, including whole tree chipping, feller-bunchers, grapple skidders and, in more recent years, the cut-to-length system. He was a giving community leader and licensed Realtor who accumulated some 30,000 acres of property, mostly timberland, in Upper Michigan. He also had other investment interests in Michigan and Florida and served for two terms on the Federal Reserve Board Region Nine.