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Using a Consulting Forester to find the Best Tool for the Job

Using a Consulting Forester to find the Best Tool for the Job

Gary Ellingson, Montana Area Office Manager, Northwest Management, Inc.

Consulting foresters face a unique set of challenges in the forestry profession.  In a typical week a Northwest Management, Inc. (NMI) staff forester might be spend time on tribal forest land, industrial forest ownership, and on a family forest property.  The point being that consultants work with an extremely diverse clientele with widely varying management objectives. The consultant’s success is based the ability to provide value in process of accomplishing forest management objectives by using problem solving skills and developing creative solutions  NMI staff has managed to accomplish this over the 35 years for an extremely diverse clientele.

NMI staff benefits from exposure to various management techniques utilized across the inland Northwest and beyond.  This exposure provides unique insights as how forest management objectives are best achieved.  As the saying goes “there is more than one way to skin a cat”.  NMI staff have the opportunity to see what works best in other places and then apply new ideas and the best technology to the particular task at hand.

Too often NMI staff see mistakes being made by good people with good intentions. Mostly these mistakes are due to a lack of experience with how best to accomplish a specific project.  Sometimes the scope of a project is under estimated and the landowner ends up overwhelmed or unable to complete the work on budget and on time. Some folks are simply shy about asking for help. Please don’t be that person!

Family forest owners will often seek forestry consulting help with more complex efforts such as timber sales but neglect to seek professional assistance with seemingly less complex projects such as tree plantings, pre-commercial thinning’s, slash disposal and burning projects, wildfire hazard reduction projects, timber valuations, real estate transactions, and cost-share projects even though these projects often require significant outputs of labor and dollars. Large forest owners may make significant investments in software, technology, training and staff without accessing alternative methods of getting the work done.

It is disappointing to see work that is not completed in the most efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sound method possible.  Especially if the consultant is aware of a “better tool” for the job that is not being utilized.  It can be as simple as seeing a landowner utilize a contractor who does not own and operate the most appropriate equipment for the task at hand.  Or as complex as a large scale natural resource assessment does not adequately provide necessary and useful information for managers.  As you might imagine consultants often get the call after it is too late or after a preventable problem has occurred.

NMI offers free initial consultation on potential projects.  There are a several reasons for this. One is we have a vested interest in seeing good forestry performed on the landscape to the benefit of society. Another is that we feel in many instances we can add value to a client by identifying the best solution to management goal or issue.  Lastly, the initial consultation provides us an opportunity to meet with landowners on a regular basis and see what the ongoing challenges are in our profession.  Please keep this in mind next time you have a potential project.  Let’s work together to make sure you have the best tool for the job at hand!

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