Shermer Logging FRA Member Spotlight

Cliff Shermer and his wife Mary are the owners and operators of Shermer Logging. As with many logging businesses in the state of Minnesota, Shermer Logging is located off the beaten path, on a dead-end road in Gheen, a small town with a population of 25. Cliff and Mary reside here on the farmland that Cliff’s parents purchased in 1959.

Shermer began logging after an unsuccessful attempt of making a living at farming. He purchased his first slasher and started a custom slashing business for local loggers. In 1990, Shermer had his first contract with the Potlatch OSB mill in nearby Cook, MN. From that point forward, Shermer continued to grow his business.

Soon, Shermer had a complete logging operation and crew. The majority the volume of timber harvested was from public lands. Business was good until the housing market crash of 2006. The Cook OSB mill, Shermer Logging’s primary market, eventually closed.

Fortunately for Shermer Logging, Cliff’s good reputation and relationships allowed him to pick up small contracts to deliver pulpwood to several paper mills in the region. But still, business remained tough.

To continue to be successful at logging, Shermer pivoted his business and found a market in chipping biomass. A recently established biomass facility was burning wood to provide power for two public utilities located in northern Minnesota. At that point, Shermer also moved away from purchasing public wood to private lands to supply him with the majority of his fiber. Private landowners were a perfect fit for his operation because often the objective of these landowners is to have a clean site and slashed removed from the harvest area. This is perfect for a chipping operation. Higher quality wood is hauled to sawmills and paper mills in the region.

In order to be successful in procuring private timber, Shermer hired a retired state forester to develop management plans for private landowners. The forester works with private landowners to understand their management goals and objectives. A plan is developed based on the conversation with the landowner. Before the harvest starts and after it is finished, Shermer has meetings with the landowner. Shermer admits it takes more time to procure private timber, but it’s worth it in the long-term as the landowners build Shermer Logging’s good reputation by word of mouth.

It’s been a good year for Shermer Logging. In April, Shermer Logging was recognized as the Logger of the Year by the Minnesota Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee. In September, FRA recognized Shermer Logging as the Lake States Region Outstanding Logger of the Year. Shermer Logging will now compete for FRA’s National Outstanding Logger of the Year, to be recognized in May of 2019.

Additionally, Cliff Shermer is active in promoting good forestry. He served on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Logger Education Program. He has also served as a board member for the Minnesota Timber Producers Association.

As for the future, at 68, Shermer says he doesn’t want to retire anytime soon. As he makes his travels on the back-roads of the Northern Minnesota woods, he sees stands of timber that he had harvested early in his career. He would like to at least cut some of those trees from the same acres he once harvested before. And isn’t that what forestry and logging are all about–sustainability of a renewable natural resource?


A Shermer Logging employee operates a harvester. The GPS technology as you see here allows the operator to move more efficiently through a timber sale, greatly improving production.


A Shermer Logging timber harvest on private land. Note that voluntary forest management guidelines are followed and the site is left in good condition following the harvest.


Cliff Shermer (L) receiving the FRA Lake States 2018 Outstanding Logger of the Year Award in September.

Ray Higgins with The Minnesota Timber Producers Association also contributed to this member spotlight.