What Can a Forester do for You?

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Brochure from Southern Pulpwood Conservation Association

Forestry has changed little since this brochure was published in the 1960’s, but the role of a forester and what they can do for you, if anything, has broadened.  It is important to consider a forester for any activities you want to partake in on your property.  A good forester is trained in the art and science of forest management, and can help you improve your forest for your needs and the forest’s needs.  If you are considering a timber sale, working with a forester almost always guarantees you a better price for your wood.

There are three types of foresters in Wisconsin: public foresters, private consulting foresters and industrial foresters.  Public foresters are employed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and are available as a resource to woodland owners free of charge.  DNR foresters are a great place to start when you are interested in working with a forester.  They can walk the land with you, discuss goals and objectives for your property, provide general recommendations for the forest, assist with tree planting plans, and answer general questions you may have about your forest and its health.  For more in-depth services, a DNR forester will likely refer you to a private consulting forester.  They charge a fee for their services, and so work to address your interests and needs.  They can provide many of the same services a DNR forester provides. Private consulting foresters can also assist with timber sales (setting up a prospectus, soliciting bids, and sale administration), marking timber for a sale, and writing detailed management plans.  Some consulting foresters offer additional services such as habitat restoration and invasive species control.  Industrial foresters work for a wood industry, and in some cases may not charge a fee for their services.  However, they will often ask to be the first bid on any timber sales you have on your woodlands.  Their services will focus on timber management and sales, but they may have expertise to help you with other aspects of your woodland management as well.

Choosing a forester shouldn’t be a daunting experience.  There are several things to look for when you are meeting foresters before you hire them.  To start, talk with neighbors or members of local chapters of woodland owner organizations or cooperatives about which foresters they have worked with, and whether they would recommend them.  Experience goes a long way to establishing the reputation of foresters.  When you talk to a forester for the first time, ask about their education, experience working in your type of woods, and whether they have additional references for you.  Wisconsin does not have a licensing program for foresters, but professional memberships and continuing education are indications of a qualified forester.  Ask the forester about their fee structure.  Depending on the services you are looking for, they may charge a flat fee, by the hour, by the acre or as a percentage of a timber sale’s revenue.  The fee may vary depending on the size of your property, the activities you are hiring them for, distance to their office, and the time required for the activities.

For more information on hiring a forester, check out Forestry Fact 75: Hiring a Consultant Forester.  You can find a listing of DNR foresters on their website, where they also have a list of cooperating consultant foresters.  The Wisconsin Consulting Foresters and Wisconsin Chapter of Society of American Foresters are two organizations for professional foresters.