At a Glance
Imagine wandering through a lush, green temperate forest on British Columbia's west coast, your senses taking in the majestic scenery of the 20-metre-high tree canopy, the fresh smell of the mist rising from the rich undergrowth, and the deceiving quiet of an early morning in the woods. But you are not here for a walk in the park. You are a forester working for the provincial government and today you are on a routine site visit.
Much of the area surrounding this part of the forest has been commercially clear-cut in the last few years, but this particular section is off-limits because it is ecologically sensitive. You are visiting it to evaluate measures taken to ensure the logging is not negatively affecting this unique area. As a forester, you are part of an Integrated Resource Management (IRM) planning team that has designed a management plan to protect this area's fragile ecosystem.
The plan calls for continuous monitoring of the forest's health to ensure that the encroachment of logging has not affected the forest's growth or reduced species richness within the protected area. The actual sampling and survey work are done by a group of forestry and wildlife technicians. Your job on this site review is to ensure that the work is being done properly and to see first-hand the state of the forest.
Even though you see the pages and pages of data collected by technicians, you still periodically visit the site to get a better sense of the data. Also, as the lead forester in the area, you are the person many members of nearby conservation groups come to with questions about the preservation efforts. This site visit will help you provide accurate, up-to-date information when you answer these questions.
Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a forester:
- Work with other professionals in an integrated management approach to balance the different demands on Canada’s forests.
- Use forest modelling to ensure sustainability while planning for harvests to meet future demands for wood, including preparing management plans and reports.
- Tender and review annual management plans for harvesting and silviculture.
- Monitor the health, growth, mortality, and volume of forest components, including counts of live and dead trees and the state of groundcover and vegetation.
- Protect forest ecosystems from insects, disease, and fire.
- Oversee the harvesting of trees, including supervising staff, budgeting, and managing materials.
- Manage planting crews and seedling and fertilizer stock requirements and monitor the health and growth of re-planted stands.
- Contribute to the development of legislation, regulations, and policies related to natural resource management and ensure forest quality standards and environmental guidelines are met.
- Provide input to inquiries and environmental impact assessments.
- Communicate with the public and provide information on forest management and sustainable practices, including presentations on standards and guidelines and how these are being met.
Foresters work in a variety of locations, including:
In the field:
- Monitoring the state of forests, including taking measurements and forest surveys
- Monitoring harvest operations and supervising technical staff and work crews
In the office:
- Analyzing data on the computer, including database management
- Working with other professionals to develop long-term management plans and prepare reports
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, and the public
- Responding to information requests from the public, as well as making presentations
In the lab:
- Researching soil capability for growth
- Researching forest health, including pathology, entomology, and tree physiology
Where to Work
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Conservation authorities
- Logging companies
- Oil, mining, and hydro companies
- Colleges and universities
- Forestry and environmental consulting firms
- Management co-operatives
Education and Skills
If you are a high school student considering a career as a forester, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Physical Education/Outdoor Education
- Computer Science
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a forester is a university undergraduate degree. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a forester, the following programs are most applicable:
- Environmental Science
- Natural Resource Management
- Environmental Studies
In most provinces, in order to work as a forester, you must be a Registered Professional Forester with the province’s professional foresters association. The requirements for this designation vary among provinces.
For foresters everywhere, making an accurate inventory of the types and numbers of trees in a particular area is a fundamental step in managing the resource. In the past, this involved hard physical work hiking through the isolated country, making observations and taking measurements along the way. Today, as forestry engineer Patrick Côté can tell you, forest inventories have become a high-technology endeavour.
Working for a forestry consulting firm based in Magog, Quebec, Patrick currently is a project leader for a team conducting forest inventories for the Province of Quebec. “Today, forest inventories are conducted using geomatic techniques,” Patrick explains. What is geomatics? “That’s the computer-aided recording, storage and display of spatial information.” Patrick’s team draws on data obtained mainly from land surveys and satellite remote sensing to develop detailed maps of forested areas. “My area of expertise is numeric cartography. I develop software programs that allow the standardization of resource maps according to provincial or federal norms.
Using these programs, I can input data linked to specific reference points on an electronic map.” Having completed a B.Sc. in forest management and environmental studies at Laval University, Patrick is currently taking courses for a master’s degree in geomatics. “Combining forestry expertise with computer and geomatics skills is where I see this profession going,” he says. Computer skills, research skills, horticultural knowledge (must be able to recognize indigenous plant material in Canadian forests) and knowledge of geomatics are important.