To care for the land and sustain the long-term health of forests
The career of the forester often conjures images of rugged individualists clad in khaki uniforms enjoying life in the great outdoors unfettered by the traffic and hassles of urban life.
For many foresters, it is a job that keeps them in touch with the outdoors as they work in the field in a variety of specialties, from hydrology to wildlife management, to ensure the future of public forests. Once heavily focused on timber management, the role of the forester is shifting to ecosystem management as the logging industry continues to scale down.
Chris Riper worked her way up through the ranks of the U.S. Forest Service and now coordinates resources and planning efforts for timber sales on Sequoia National Forest.
"The higher up you get, the less time you spend in the woods," Riper said. Her desk job now sometimes leaves her longing for the rugged world outside, but the added responsibility and challenges provide continual opportunities for personal growth.
Working with others in the fields of recreation, wildlife, fish and game and watershed management, Riper incorporates their input and feedback into environmental analysis for proposed timber sale projects. The job gives Riper a chance to work with the public and numerous other public agencies as she coordinates timber projects and completes the paperwork to conform national environmental regulations.
While some foresters, such as Riper, find themselves in the office for most of their work day, many remain in the outdoors working in the field and with the public.
"I enjoy being outdoors and dealing with people," said Artie Colson who manages special uses for the U.S. Forest Service on Sequoia National Forest. "I find it very satisfying working with people who are clueless about nature. I tell them where to go (in the forest), what to do, and how to behave."
Although helping people to enjoy the forest is one of the perks of the job, working with people who often have little or no understanding of life in the woods also presents an ongoing challenge to foresters as they cope with littering, abandoned campfires and illegal wood cutting.
Colson also has worked closely with the logging industry enforcing timber contracts. Despite the trend of declining logging contracts, timber remains an important aspect of forestry and offers opportunities for those dedicated to preserving the forest.
"Logging can be pretty ugly," Colson said. "When a timber sale was properly administered, knowing that there was a product removed from the land and that the land still looked good afterwards gave me a lot of satisfaction."