Forestry Technician/Technologist

Forestry technicians/technologists work closely with other forestry professionals in managing, conserving, and harvesting forests. A large component of a forestry technician/technologist’s job is collecting data to inform the decision-making process, as well as compliance monitoring. Forestry technicians/technologists play a key role in the management of Canada’s forest resources, contributing to the balance of sustainability and demand for wood products.

Entry-Level Salary:
Senior-Level Salary:

At a Glance

Imagine that it's a hot, dry summer day, the sun beating down on the scarred land you're standing on. You've come to this site to evaluate the blackened trees, victims of last summer's massive forest fire that burned more than 2000 hectares of the boreal forest.

You are a forestry technician and you work as part of a team that monitors forest regrowth following blazes such as this one. You are looking for regeneration among the charred remains, a sign that plant life is recovering. Given that fire is a natural process in the boreal forest, in most cases, your team will not actively treat this burn by reseeding or replanting saplings, but rather let nature take its course. But before that decision is made, you need to know that the area will recover on its own.

As a forestry technician, you function as the team's eyes and ears, gathering data that will be used to make forest management decisions. As the team's eyes, you first photograph the area as a qualitative measure of recovery. These photos can be compared to photos taken right after the fire swept through to demonstrate the amount of regeneration in the area over the last 12 months. Once this is complete, you will gather quantitative evidence, for example, soil samples. You will take several soil cores that will be analyzed in the lab for indicators such as organic content and evidence of germination.

These cores will also measure how deeply into the ground the fire burned. In addition to soil samples, you will examine the new green growth, recording the colonizing species and looking for new shoots or runners from tree roots that survived the fire. You will record all this data and bring it to your team members, who will analyze the different indicators of growth and revival and decide if the area needs their assistance for recovery.

Job Duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a forestry technician:

  • Assist with reforestation efforts, including working in nurseries, preparing sites, seeding, planting, controlling weeds, and pruning.
  • Assess sites for reclamation and rehabilitation work.
  • Carry out and supervise seed harvesting and cultivation of young trees.
  • Take samples and forest measurements, including species, height, diameter, age, and quality.
  • Manage, coordinate, and assist with forest fire-fighting efforts or controlled burns.
  • Enforce fire protection regulations to protect forest zones.
  • Survey, measure, and map forest areas and access roads.
  • Assess the new growth of areas previously logged.
  • Supervise the use of herbicides and insecticides to implement pest, weed, and disease control.
  • Monitor compliance with regulations governing forest operations and provincial and Crown land management.
  • Inspect sites for environmental field reports to assess new areas for oil and gas activity.

Work Environment

Forestry technicians work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to:

In the field:

  • Taking samples and measuring forest characteristics
  • Working in remote locations in all weather conditions, including from small aircraft and in potentially dangerous situations, such as forest fires Inspecting land and forest activities

In the office:

  • Analyzing data on the computer, including database management
  • Working with other professionals to contribute information to long-term management plans and reporting procedures
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, and the public

In the lab:

  • Processing specimens and samples

Where to Work

There are a number of places forestry technicians/technologists can find employment. They include:

  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Conservation authorities
  • Logging companies
  • Oil, mining, and power companies
  • Forestry and environmental consulting firms
  • Land service companies

Education and Skills

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a forestry technician is a technical diploma. The following post-secondary programs are most applicable to a career in this field:

  • Forestry
  • Natural resource management
  • Renewable resource management

Some provinces require certification in order to work as a forestry technician. Also, some specializations require certification, for example scaling or tree marking. The requirements for certification vary among provinces. If you are a high school student considering a career as a forestry technician, you should have a strong interest in:

  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Physical education
  • Computer sciences
  • Geography

Role Models

David Caldwell

Fort McMurray, located in northeastern Alberta, is most often associated with massive tar sands operations, but Fort McMurray is also at the heart of the thriving forestry industry. Today, forest workers like David Caldwell continue the tradition. A forest technician trained at the Alberta Technical College, David monitors forestry activities for his employer, Northland Forest Products, to make sure they meet all provincial government regulations. “In this job, the work changes frequently,” David says. “A lot depends on the season.

During the summer, I do quality checks on the work of planting contractors, monitor herbicide applications or calculate requirements for seedlings to replace harvested trees. In the fall, it’s regeneration surveys to meet government standards. In the winter, my tasks might include lumber scaling-taking measurements to determine how much wood has been harvested.” A lot rides on the accuracy of David’s work.

Stumpage fees-taxes paid to the government for the harvesting of trees-are assessed on his calculations and confirmed by government spot site audits. If there is a difference of more than 3% between David’s calculations and the government’s, there is a lot of explaining to do. What’s best about the job? “I enjoy dealing with a lot of different people,” David says. “In my work, I encounter executives, trappers, contractors, government inspectors and company staff. I also enjoy working outside-especially in the winter, when the best way to get around the bush is by snowmobile.”