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The 2012 Forester

by Gary Ellingson, Northwest Management, Inc.

I recently attended the 11th annual Forester’s Forum in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho with approximately 160 professional foresters from across the inland Northwest.  The Forester Forum is a primary continuing education opportunity for many of who attend and training is provided by noted speakers from across the country.  Events like this provide an excellent opportunity to look at what is on the mind of foresters and leaders in the industry who are preparing themselves to meet future challenges and better serve the needs of society.  The agenda generally reflects what is new and exciting in the forestry world.  The agenda also reflects the base of knowledge that foresters require in order to perform their daily work.  I started to think about this recently when I was asked “What do you do for work?”

I responded with “I am a forester”.  The questioner went on “Oh, that must be nice but what do you do as a forester”.  Well based on the Forester’s Forum agenda I might respond as follows.  “Well some days I look at international wood product markets, such as those in China, to see how housing starts are impacting the price of saw timber in Idaho and Montana.  Other days I pull out my Excel spreadsheet to analyze forestry investments with by calculating present values of timberland.  If it’s really slow I catch up on forestry regulations related to protecting water quality during timber harvesting operations.  That’s if I’m not brushing up on legal issues related to easements, property surveys and timber trespass.  Of course there are those days, usually when it’s snowing or raining, where I am laying out timber sales, planning reforestation projects and doing boundary surveys.  Some days I work on conservation easement projects, volunteer on a forest landowner board, or negotiate rates on a road construction project.  That’s if I can ever get away from writing and reviewing harvest contracts, preparing for sustainable forestry certification audits, or trying to learn various software programs used for map making, work planning, or computing forest inventory results.  I also spend time looking at forest insect and disease problems and try to determine what management approaches will best meet the management objectives of the landowner.  If I finish early I’ll take a look at my text messages and emails”.

It’s hard to describe what a forester does on a typical day because most are very different and each day requires the forester bring a different set of skills and abilities to the table. Its impressive to see foresters with 30 plus years of experience at continuing education venues such as the Forester’s Forum because its obvious that they have a passion for their profession and that they understand there is always something new to learn that will help them to do their jobs in the most environmentally sound and cost effective manner possible.  Foresters need a broad skill set to navigate the social, economic, political and environmental realities of natural resource management in today’s world.  So next time I am asked “So what does a forester do?” I am still not sure what I will say other than “Do my best to leave the forest in better condition than I found it”.

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