Seeking foresters

Foresters provide valuable expertise in maintaining forest health, forest industry, and all the other goods and services that forests provide. Management is the key. However, foresters come in many breeds.

Some foresters within the forestry community have recently been engaged with the proposal to upgrade and enhance the Michigan Registered Forester occupational code. Unlike many professions, foresters do not need to be licensed in Michigan. However, forest owners, and others, can derive some level of assurance when they engage the services of a Registered Forester, which requires a university degree, field experience, and (proposed) continuing education.

Should the Michigan Legislature upgrade the current Registered Forester program, along the guidelines of the new proposal, forest owners will have another level of confidence when seeking professional forestry assistance. Consulting foresters are most likely the face of forestry that forest owners will encounter, along with timber buyers, corporate foresters, and loggers. Forest owners who value their woodlands should pay attention to whom they allow to work on their land.

Consulting foresters are the only ones that actually work for the forest owner, although the other groups play important roles in the fabric of forest management, forest industry, and forest health. Oftentimes, long-term relationships are built between foresters and families. Outcomes can be immensely rewarding.

Registered Foresters, Certified Foresters (Society of American Foresters), and members of the Association of Consulting Foresters are different credentials but all require professional education and experience. Forest ecology, timber sale contracting, and other forestry topics involve specialized knowledge and ability. Forest owners should ask about these qualifications when approached by timber buyers or when they decide it’s time to manage their forest. These various professional forester credentials can help forest owners select the best people for their forestry needs.

Forests owned by governments and corporations use discriminating hiring practices to obtain a skilled work force to manage their ownership jurisdictions. Some of the land conservancies and non-profits also have in-house foresters. Family forest owners are wise to be equally cautious.

Finding consulting foresters can sometimes be a challenge for private forest owners. Word of mouth is a generally reliable technique. So, talking to friends and neighbors can be useful. The Michigan Forest Association can help direct some traffic. The Michigan Forest Stewardship Program has lists of foresters who are qualified to write management plans using that program’s criteria. A similar list of “technical service providers” is also available from the USDA Natural Resource and Conservation Service. The Forestry Assistance Program funds foresters through many of Michigan’s County Conservation Districts. These foresters can be instrumental in guiding forest owners through the maze of services and programs. Michigan State University Extension has a bulletin that can help forest owners with choosing forestry services.

At the end of the day, forest owners are the responsible party for taking care of their property, not the government, business, or contractor. Credentials, such as the Registered Forester program, can assist forest owners in finding quality advice and services, but the decisions still lie with the forest owner. 

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