What to Look For in A Forester

The great thing about owning a woodlot is the options available for managing it to reach the goals you have. However, all those choices can sometimes cause hesitation or even paralysis because you “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Working with a forester enables you to see the best choices more clearly and build a management plan that can help you reach both your short- and long-term goals.

Eric Stawitzky, a 25-year veteran of forestry and owner of Pioneer Forestry, LLC in Jamestown, New York, says there are several things to consider when choosing a forester. “Experience plays a part, obviously,” said Stawitzky. “Getting someone who has been through a number of different scenarios is useful. If you’re trying to find a forester, reaching out to state agencies for cooperating foresters and/or members of professional organizations like The Society of American Foresters (SAF) is a place to start. If they’re qualified to meet these designations, it means they are continuing to educate themselves on relevant topics which will provide the landowner with the quality of service they deserve. In the end you need to find someone to trust, and that’s never an easy thing to do.”

“There are lots of scenarios when someone calls me to talk about their forestland and what help they may need,” said Stawitzky. “My first questions for the landowner are what are your goals and objectives, and how are you looking to manage the area. It’s recommended that the landowner be as open as possible about want they want their property to be. That phone call can be a good way to help them become more educated on options that are available, but the best advice comes when I get a chance to get my boots on the ground and inspect the property. It’s best if the landowner can join me because it gives them the opportunity to address and discuss in more detail specific areas within the ownership. That visit connects the dots between desires and obtainability, considering the health and quality of the forest currently.”

When landowners have an onsite visit, they are encouraged to listen as much as possible. “They should try to be a sponge, so that they can learn from the forester about all of the different management possibilities and scenarios available for their property,” said Stawitzky. “Every property has issues, both good and bad. Creating a management plan is about getting a thorough understanding of what those issues are and what to do to improve the property over the long term. Once understood, immediate goals and objectives might need to be adjusted to have any chance of meeting long-term agendas. Be adaptable.”

Another thing to keep in mind while working with a forester is it can take time to accomplish major ecological changes to a forested property, and not everything goes as planned. “Once the forester interview process is complete, you should have a better overall sense of what you have, what you want, and how to potentially accomplish it,” said Stawitzky. “Don’t ever be forced or pressured into making a forest management decision. It’s taken years – sometimes decades – for a forestland to get to the level it’s at. However, there are also events that can make changes to your plan almost instantly. For example, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive insect that has altered a lot of goals and objectives for forested ownerships. Things change no matter how good you are in managing your property. My goal as a forester isn’t to overwhelm you with possibilities but to help you think about your property more than you ever have before while providing all available scenarios so you can choose the right approach for you.”

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