Be a Forester - What a Forester Does

Forester or builder marking trees with ora...
Pamela Moore/E+/Getty Images

This is the second in a three part series on becoming a forester. As I mentioned in the first feature, there is a structured set of courses you must have from an accredited forestry school to become a forester. However, when you finish your four year degree, the practical "applied learning process" begins.

Working conditions vary considerably - you may be inside for weeks at a time. But it is a certainty that a large part of your job will be outside. This is especially true during your first several years of employment where you are building career basics. These basics become your future war stories.

Although some of the work is solitary, most foresters have to also deal regularly with landowners, loggers, forestry technicians and aides, farmers, ranchers, government officials, special interest groups, and the public in general. Some work regular hours in offices or labs but this is usually the experienced forester or forester with a graduate level degree. The average "dirt forester" splits his/her time between field work and office work, many opting to spend most of the time outside.

The work can be physically demanding. Foresters who work outdoors do so in all kinds of weather, sometimes in isolated areas. Some foresters may need to walk long distances through thick vegetation, through wetlands, and over mountains to carry out their work. Foresters also may work long hours fighting fires and have been known to climb fire towers several times a day.

Foresters manage forested lands for a variety of purposes. Generally they come in four groups:

The Industrial Forester

Those working in private industry may procure timber from private landowners. To do this, foresters contact local forest owners and gain permission to take inventory of the type, amount, and location of all standing timber on the property, a process known as timber cruising. Foresters then appraise the timber's worth, negotiate the purchase of timber, and draw up a contract for procurement. Next, they subcontract with loggers or pulpwood cutters for tree removal, aid in road layout, and maintain close contact with the subcontractor's workers and the landowner to ensure that the work meets the landowner's requirements, as well as Federal, State, and local environmental specifications. Industrial foresters also manage company lands.

The Consulting Forester

Forestry consultants often act as agents for the forest owner, performing many of the above duties and negotiating timber sales with industrial procurement foresters. The consultant supervises planting and growing of new trees. They choose and prepare the site, using controlled burning, bulldozers, or herbicides to clear weeds, brush, and logging debris. They advise on the type, number, and placement of trees to be planted. Foresters then monitor the seedlings to ensure healthy growth and to determine the best time for harvesting. If they detect signs of disease or harmful insects, they decide on the best course of treatment to prevent contamination or infestation of healthy trees.

The Government Forester

Foresters who work for State and Federal governments manage public forests and parks and also work with private landowners to protect and manage forest land outside of the public domain. The Federal government hires most of their foresters for managing public lands. Many State governments hire foresters to assist timber owners in making initial management decisions while also providing manpower for timber protection. Government foresters also can specialize in urban forestry, resource analysis, GIS, and forest recreation.

Tools of the Trade

Foresters use many specialized tools to perform their jobs: Clinometers measure the heights, diameter tapes measure the diameter, and increment borers and bark gauges measure the growth of trees so that timber volumes can be computed and future growth estimated. Photogrammetry and remote sensing (aerial photographs and other imagery taken from airplanes and satellites) often are used for mapping large forest areas and for detecting widespread trends of forest and land use. Computers are used extensively, both in the office and in the field, for the storage, retrieval, and analysis of information required to manage the forest land and its resources.

Thanks to BLS Handbook for Forestry for much of the information provided in this feature.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nix, Steve. "Be a Forester - What a Forester Does." ThoughtCo, Oct. 2, 2021, Nix, Steve. (2021, October 2). Be a Forester - What a Forester Does. Retrieved from Nix, Steve. "Be a Forester - What a Forester Does." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).