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By Peter Maki
Forestry merges the science of managing and the conservation of forest resources-clean water, forest products, recreation areas, urban parks, and greener communities. You can be part of a profession that sustains these vital environmental goods and services.
Imagine managing and conserving forests, being involved in environmental education, policy, research, business development, and computer technology. There are many ways a forester makes a difference and many of these professionals are not called “foresters.” They have titles like forest pathologist, soil scientist, forestry consultant, recreation coordinator, forest supervisor, wood chemist, wilderness and trails specialist, wildlife biologist and habitat specialist, education specialist, and timberland investor.
Foresters and natural resource professionals are everywhere-enjoying the outdoors, working in a lab or classroom, using technology, talking with local communities and landowners, and speaking in public. The exciting profession of forestry means you have many career paths in natural resources.
Whatever your title or specialty, to be a forester or natural resource professional, you need at least a four-year forestry degree. Also, many colleges and universities offer specific training in watershed management, urban forestry, forest engineering, wildfire and fuels management, forest products, recreation, and forest wildlife management.
Maybe you only want a two-year technical degree. Forest technicians still have a valuable role in forest management.
Technicians conduct tree inventories-gathering information on species and populations of trees, disease and insect damage, and tree seedling mortality. They also help with fire suppression and training, harvest operation monitoring, law enforcement, and reforestation.
After you complete your training, there are many opportunities for getting employment.
The owners of tree farms frequently hire forestry consultants to manage their land. As a consultant, you may work for yourself or for a firm, offering services ranging from estate planning, to writing management plans, to marketing timber.
You may also find a place within the largest employer of forestry professionals-the federal government. The US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and branches of the military employ thousands of forestry professionals.
You may also work for state agencies like the Department of Natural Resources or the Missouri Department of Conservation, or at the community level as an urban forester. There are opportunities with private industry including manufacturers of paper and wood products.
Foresters working with these companies are often focused on growing trees faster and stronger and developing more environmentally friendly methods of harvesting trees and making forest products. You could work for a college or university as a faculty member, researcher, or manager of school forests. Not-for-profit organizations employ foresters as do banks and law firms specializing in land investment or estate law.
Forestry has been ranked as one of the best low-stress jobs with about 33,000 jobs as conservation scientists and foresters. There has been job growth in consulting firms, urban forestry, fire prevention, and fuels management. Developing private lands and forests for recreational purposes will generate additional jobs for foresters. Additionally, climate change and alternate fuels present new opportunities and challenges.
For a sampling of jobs available visit www.safnet.org, www.forestry careers.org, and www.mdc.mo.gov.
Peter Maki serves as a Forestry Communication Specialist with the Top of the Ozarks Resource Conservation & Development.