The Field of Forestry

The field of forestry is wonderfully diverse and challenging due to the diversity and complexity of forests (See Topic 1). Managing forests requires highly-trained people with diverse knowledge and skills in such fields as ecology, economics, hydrology, soils, engineering, computer science, fire, wildlife, administration, and policy development. Forestry is a mixture of art, experience, and science and requires foresters with specialized training and a love for natural resources. 

At its core, the field of forestry involves being able to understand past growth and conditions resulting in present stand structure, species composition and forest health; being able to forecast the development of forest stands into the future; and being able to prescribe treatments needed to ensure that desired conditions are obtained and management goals met. The aim is to ensure that forests remain healthy and fire resistant such that they continue to provide desired goods, services, and values for perpetuity.

Actual desired forest conditions depend upon forest ownership and their individual goals.  Actual practices are constrained by site productivity, federal statutes and laws, state regulations, and by economic realities (See Topic 1.)

Introduction to forests and natural resources should be provided to students in K-12. This is the time to raise the curiosity, appreciation, and understanding of forests among young people. The California Forest Foundation has recognized this by providing five Lesson Plans for 5th graders (Cite web location). The Foundation also supports the very well-received, statewide The Forestry Institute for Teachers (FIT) that has been offered annually (apart from two year’s absence due to COVID) for 28 years.

The Forestry Institute

Education programs in forestry are available at many universities and community colleges in California. Four-year programs accredited by the Society of American Foresters are available at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Humboldt, and at the University of California, Berkeley. Associate degrees in forestry are offered at many Community Colleges throughout the State that enable people to gain special skills as technicians and equipment operators. Of particular importance is the ability to manage forests to be vigorous and healthy so that they are both resistant to pests, fire, and climate, and resilient in being able to recover from these changes. This mostly requires control of stand density and species composition through thinning. This generally requires processing plants that utilize thinned material for biomass/energy or diverse products that pay for the stand treatments (See Topic 5).

The need for sustainable management of California’s forests has never been more apparent. Increase in temperature, climate change, and catastrophic wildfires clearly indicate the need for increased intensity of management. Funds are being made available, but the biggest constraint to management is the need for well-trained professionals in the field of forestry. So, for any one who cares about the sustainability of renewable natural resources, forestry could be the field for you.

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