How to Select the Best Forestry Professional

Finding a Forester Depends on the Forestry Service You Need

Less than one third of all U.S. states support forester registration laws so you very possibly live in a state with no legal definition of a forester. This means that very qualified to less qualified individuals can use the title, leaving forest owners uncertain about their loyalty and level of competency. Even if someone calls himself or herself a forester, there are questions you need to ask about that forest professional's proficiency and information about his employer/employment status.

In some cases, you might not need a forester if you are hiring a worker for labor associated with forest maintenance including heavy equipment operation, tree planting, applying approved forest pesticides and reestablishing forest roads and boundaries. A forest technician can be hired to perform more complex tasks as prescribed burning, marking trees for harvest or collecting timber volume and growth data.

Professional foresters can do all of the above but are employed for their advanced skills developed during years of experience after receiving a degree from an accredited University. In addition to developing forest management plans and supervising timber harvests, professional foresters can also help with non-harvest questions that include estate appraisals, tax basis determination, advice about forest property assistance programs, and managing a forest for wildlife and outdoor recreation.

Essentials necessary in selecting a forester for hire

Education and training - Your professional forester should have the minimum of a 4 year degree in some variation of a forest resource management university study (degree names differ). In North America, graduating from a Society of American Foresters (SAF) accredited school of forestry assures that the individual understands the profession's lingua franca.

Graduates of these forestry schools will have both the theoretical training and the basic field experiences to help you with your forestry challenges.

Experience - The practice of forestry demands that in addition to understanding scientific principles taught in courses on silviculture, a forester has to have enough field experience to master it as an art form. Working with growing forests, understanding maturity and harvest principles takes time to develop the skills. Five years is generally the time required to turn school study into reliable working field competency.

Professional affiliations - You would be well advised to find a forester that is a current member of the Society of American Foresters. That membership indicates a forester active in his professional commitments to include peer information sharing and continued education. A private forester in the consulting business should be affiliated with the Association of Consulting Foresters (ACF). These two organizations provide standards of professional conduct, training opportunities, and conferences for additional learning. A forester who belongs to these groups is demonstrating their willingness to learn more and more.

Registration and certification - Being a state board qualified forester (if your state demands it) means that the law is being followed and forestry is being legally practiced.

States with registration laws prohibit resource professionals from promoting themselves using the title "forester".

The SAF has a voluntary certification program which requires that foresters meet the profession's educational and experience requirements. Ask your forester if he or she participates in this certification that assures the certified has five or more years of professional forestry experience, maintains standards of professional practice, passes a competency exam and participates in continuing education.

Do you need a government, industrial or consulting forester?

The government forester - Many foresters work for federal and state government. They typically are available (in addition to managing public forests) to administer various cost-share programs, educate private forest owners on all aspects of forestry, and coordinate protection from fire, insects and disease.

  1. United States Forest Service: foresters typically work on national forests and manage those activities associated with our public lands.
  2. State Forestry Agencies: foresters working for a state check are either with Cooperative Extension or with the state forestry agency - extension primarily dealing with technical information distribution, agencies primarily dealing with field visits and protection. I suggest you find your local forester if you are a small forest owner and need quick advice with limited hands-on help.

The industry forester - Industrial foresters are hired to meet the responsibility and needs of their employers. With that being understood, these forester are in "the business", are knowledgeable about the value of timber and they need your trees. Industrial foresters are great sources of information and, eventually, will be the ones who buy your trees. If your are a sizable timber owner check with your state forester for industrial foresters in the area and give them a call. Some companies actually have landowner assistance foresters who will work with you for first refusal timber rights.

The consulting forester - A private consulting practice in forestry is primarily in full time business, operated by an independent forester(s) and works for the forest owner exclusively. They earn their living on a fee basis and do not work for timber-buying businesses. They offer the full array of skills and resources needed to fulfill the functions set out in any forest management plan (including writing the plan).

This forester will be adept at all aspects of forestry, is paid a professional wage and should be worthy of the full-scale review of abilities I provide below.

Things you need to ask before you hire a forester

Here are several questions you need to ask the forester you use, especially if they are working exclusively for you.

  1. How long has your forester worked as a professional and where has the work been performed? You should find out what experience the forester has in forests similar to yours.
  2. What is your forester's level of education completed at a university with an accredited forestry school? Ask about other continuing education taken, especially in areas where changes are the norm or where safety and environmental issues are of concern (ex: tax appraisals, prescribed burning, pesticide application).
  3. Is your forester associated with a saw mill or wood products firm? This is not necessarily a negative when answered in the positive but should be up front and on the table. It will explain fiduciary responsibilities and issues arising from future sales and harvests.
  4. Is your forester legally registered and/or certified by your state board of registration for foresters. Is she a current member of Society of American Foresters (SAF), or if a private company, the Association of Consulting Foresters of America (ACF)?
  5. What is your forester's fee schedule, what services can be provided versus what services can not? Would the forester sign a contractual agreement that details the services you want done to include specific terms of accomplishment?
  1. Will your forester provide references from previous clients and /or agencies?
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Your Citation
Nix, Steve. "How to Select the Best Forestry Professional." ThoughtCo, Oct. 3, 2016, Nix, Steve. (2016, October 3). How to Select the Best Forestry Professional. Retrieved from Nix, Steve. "How to Select the Best Forestry Professional." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 19, 2017).