Updated: August 10, 2022

By Agnes Kedmenecz, and Elizabeth Hill, Maryland Forests Association

Billy Singleton, a self-driven young logger based out of Wicomico County, Maryland, is most deserving of the Logger of the Year award. He started his career as a Maryland Licensed Tree Expert, saw an opportunity in logging, and fell in love with the profession. He has been working in the woods as a logger since 2014 and has been an MD-DE Master Logger since 2018.

As the leader of two logging crews, improving himself and his employees is Singleton’s most important role. It doesn't take long when talking to him to figure out that having the support of his family is one of the things that he values the most. His brother works alongside him in the woods, and his wife assists with the bookkeeping.

The safety of Singleton's crew is vital. He never lets his men work alone, and when issues arise, he makes sure to point out proper procedures to the entire team. He regularly talks with his crew about safety specifics for new sites. As for PPE, it is essential to him as he sees how much his family cares about his safety. He receives a new hard hat every Father's Day, signed and personalized by his biggest fans, his kids. As he says, not wearing hard hats is just "unprofessional and foolish."

That professionalism is also apparent on the ground. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit an active Singleton logging job on Delaware Wildlands. Their goal was to improve wildlife habitat and generate income for the organization. It was apparent how well he worked with Ron Haas, the land manager, to meet his objectives using sustainable forestry practices. Singleton states, "Meeting the landowner's objectives is my top priority, not harvesting a certain amount of timber."

Singleton is familiar with many forest management techniques such as clear-cutting for wildlife habitat improvement, 1st and 2nd thinnings, and select harvests. As a logger on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, one of the biggest challenges is working on wet ground. He has become skilled at creating patterns that minimize ditch crossings. When it comes to tops and slash, he finds these good to run on, so it protects the land and minimizes rutting. You know you are on a Singleton job because of the tidy deck. As he says, "A tidy deck equals a safer crew!" Deck and road placement are important to Singleton; he tries to place them where there will be the least disturbance and considers visibility from the road. He likes to minimize road debris on county roads and utilizes log truck signs when needed. He follows BMPs by using straw on loose sand roads and mats or stone on wet roads. Finally, he stabilizes his bridge mats with a log on the sides to keep them tight. In the woods, he runs a fully mechanized operation. Chainsaws are needed from time to time, and he uses a modified Stihl saw that he says "provides for safer operation by cutting faster and keeping it from kicking the wrong way." His fleet of equipment, including numerous feller-bunchers, skidders, and knuckleboom loaders, is meticulously maintained in-house. Local shops handle tough welding jobs and engine repairs. Trucking for the operation is all contracted out to MZM. Singleton has strong relationships with fellow loggers, landowners, foresters, and other forest industry professionals. He feels that open lines of communication are critical, noting that he has reached out and received excellent advice from his peers many times.

With the recent closures of mills in the area, finding new markets for his wood has been Singleton’s top concern. He had a vision for the future of his business, and knowing that he needed a steady, reliable home for his wood to be sustainable, he began exploring possibilities several years ago. He has partnered with other colleagues to fill that gap. Singleton was a driving force behind Southern Coastal Forest Products,  a new post and piling mill that he and his partners recently opened.

Billy Singleton's apparent love for the industry and tenacity have helped him create his own way. We are proud to have him as a Maryland- Delaware Master Logger. He is truly an example of professionalism worthy of recognition.

Branching Out, Vol. 30, no. 3 (Summer 2022)

Branching Out is the free, quarterly newsletter of the Woodland Stewardship Education program. For more than 25 years, Branching Out has kept Maryland woodland owners and managers informed about ways to develop and enhance their natural areas, how to identify and control invasive plants and insects, and about news and regional online and in-person events.