It happened again the other day. I was reading a newspaper article, and the writer used the word “forester” to describe a person who owns forestland.
I’ve also seen forester used interchangeably with “logger.” Landowners, loggers, and foresters are three different roles. Sometimes, a forester also cuts the trees and thus is a logger, and sometimes a logger is also a landowner. But the roles are not the same.
By virtue of a college education with a focus on forestry, a person who works as a forester is the one who makes decisions about which trees are cut and which trees continue to grow. The complexity of that decision takes into account a knowledge of silviculture, soils, ecology, and markets. Forestry school prepares you for a number of different jobs, with one of the most common being a consulting forester. In that role, you manage forestland for a number of different landowners, which means developing a management plan and administering periodic timber sales.
Loggers, on the other hand, are responsible for getting the wood from the forest to the market, and in doing so, they take direction from either the forester or the landowner. (A landowner without a background in forestry should always use a forester.) Logging contractors come in many different configurations: some are large companies, highly mechanized; others are sole proprietors, hand cutting with chainsaws and getting logs to the landing with cable skidders, dozers, tractors, or horses.
It’s important to recognize that excellent work in the woods – harvesting that does a minimum of damage to soils and to the trees left to grow – can be done using any of the equipment mentioned above. More than the type of equipment, it’s the skill and commitment of the operator that will influence the outcome of the job. Feller bunchers and cut-to-length processors with large high-flotation tires can be much lighter on the land than a careless logger with horses.
The third role in this three-legged stool is that of landowner. That seems self-explanatory, but it’s interesting to note that in the Northeast, there are hundreds of thousands of people who own at least 10 acres of forestland. Most of those people do not own forestland primarily as an investment in timber. Instead, the land serves other purposes – a nice place to walk, watch wildlife, hunt or fish, and find peace and quiet. Many of them have found that by being willing to manage their land, they receive income from the occasional timber sale, can end up with a nice network of trails, and can make real improvements in their forest’s capacity as wildlife habitat.
Three different roles – forester, logger, landowner – all working together to keep the working landscape in the Northeast alive.