Role of the forester is keeper
“I have loved my woods since the day I first walked in them, but my appreciation of them has increased exponentially since I first had a professional forester walk in my woods with me.”
— Stephen Long from “More Than A Woodlot: Getting the Most from Your Family Forest”
This column is one of a series I am writing about our region’s forests and woodlands. Forests play an important role in our lives. They are the lungs of the world and filter rain and water run off to keep our rivers, lakes and ponds clean. Our woods provide important habitat for wildlife as well as valuable wood products. They provide the materials for our houses and literally keep the roof over our heads. Our forests also help to sequester carbon as a hedge against a warming planet and are vitally important to the quality of life we enjoy here in The Last Green Valley. With our forest in mind, today we’ll explore the role of the professional consulting forester, responsible for managing our woods and forests.
In my personal and professional life I have had the pleasure of knowing several foresters. Some of them manage forestlands for private landowners, non-profit organizations such as land trusts, wood products companies that need the raw materials for their products, and some are responsible for managing vast acreage of state and federally owned forestlands.
The primary role a consulting forester provides is as the author of a forest management or stewardship plan. My family has greatly benefitted from a long-term relationship with a professional forester who has helped us steward forest land we own in New Hampshire since the late 1960s. Our current management plan has been an on-going and regularly updated plan since the mid-1970s. Like Stephen Long said in the quote at the beginning of this column I too have gained a greater appreciation for our forest by spending time in the woods with our forester.
Foresters develop a management plan after spending time in the woods of a client or landowner. They carefully document the natural and, in some cases, cultural resources and, of course, the trees on the land. They work with the landowner to help create a plan that meets the interest and needs of the landowner.
To understand more about the role that foresters play in managing our region’s forestlands I queried a few consulting foresters I know for their insights and thoughts. Here is a sampling of responses.
Steve Broderick, Extension Service Forester – Retired
“A forester’s job is to take a holistic approach in crafting forest stewardship plans. The sciences behind wildlife management, water quality protection, production of timber and other products, outdoor recreation and more must be blended together with the needs of the landowner always in mind. Forestry is a continually evolving science. Today’s foresters must prioritize things like carbon sequestration and air quality enhancement that we really didn’t consider much 40 or 50 years ago.”
“I’ve met many people who believe that loggers and foresters are pretty much the same thing. But they are not. A logger is a skilled technician, whose job is to remove products from the woods, maximizing utilization while minimizing environmental damage. The forester uses his background and inventory data to decide which trees are to be removed and why. It’s a bit like the relationship between an architect and a building contractor. If you’re going to end up with a quality building, both must be good at what they do, and they need to work together well.”
Eric Hansen, Consulting Forester & Partner, Ferrucci & Walicki, LLC
“The way I see my role as a forester is to provide landowners the best, most scientifically-based, up-to-date, and site-specific information I can to help them make informed decisions about what can and, in some cases, should happen on their land. Some of the decisions that they make and actions they engage in can have immediate impacts, and with some activities the impacts won’t be realized until many years down the line. It’s important to keep in mind that any decision made and subsequent action taken has consequences. There will be some winners and some losers (both short= and long-term) whatever they decide to do. And sometimes the best decision is to do nothing, and that’s ok.
“My role is to act as a liaison between the landowner and the land as well as the landowner and any contractors who complete whatever work is being done on the land. It is important to try to help people understand the impacts of what certain activities will have on the land (physical and ecological primarily) and how the activities may impact their interaction with the land (psychological, physical, aesthetic, economic, etc.). Determining and/or helping people figure out what is important to landowners about their land and attempting to enhance those features through active management are key parts of what our role as foresters is. All this needs to be done with the capacities and limitations of the land in mind.”
Michael J. Bartlett, Forester, Hull Forest Products, Inc.
“My role with Hull Forest Products is one of keeping the mill supplied with raw material in a sustainable manner. That is best achieved by practicing good forestry. That being said it ultimately is the landowner’s decision as to how they want to manage their property. I try to inform the landowners as to what they have for forest resources and make forest management recommendations for treatments to meet their goals for the property. One of things that the former State of CT head Forester Don Smith said years ago has always stuck with me, ‘If you practice good forestry the yield of forest products will take care of itself’ This has proved to be true.”
“A benefit of working for Hull Forest Products is the wide array of logging contractors that they have providing harvesting services and the ability to make good matches between landowners, logging conditions, loggers and logging equipment. The greatest challenge that we face in practicing forestry here is having markets for the poor-quality trees that will pay enough for it to be economically feasible to remove them from the forest. This is necessary to keep our forest healthy and productive. I am fortunate to work for a company that understands the importance of informing the public of what we do so that we may maintain our social license to continue to do so.”
I have known Steve, Eric and Mike for several years and always value their insights and knowledge about their work as foresters.
There are several excellent resources for landowners who are interested in contacting a consulting forester. I highly recommend the book “More Than A Woodlot: Getting the Most from Your Family Forest.” by Steven Long and published by Northern Woodlands. You can find information on the book as well as purchase it from Northern Woodlands.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Forestry Division has a list of CT Certified Foresters at the following link:
We are lucky to live in a The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor where we are rich in forest and woods. I hope you’ll join us, and the many foresters actively working in our region as we care for, enjoy, and pass on this beautiful place we call home.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 35 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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