New England Forestry Consultants, Inc.
|Volume 6, No. 1
MORE THAN JUST FORESTERS
As I review my activities over the past few years, I am amazed at the number of projects that I have been involved with that do not fit into the traditional "forester" job description. Based on my conversations with other NEFCo foresters, I am certainly not the exception.
The job of a consulting forester has evolved from one primarily concerned with the production of timber products to that of being a property manager. Certainly the production and management of timber is still an important component of the job, but with the changes in land ownership and attitudes has come the need for variety and "thinking outside the box."
Listed below are a number of NEFCo projects that would not normally be associated with the traditional function of the consulting forester:
A NEFCo forester recently completed an education trail. This task encompassed the laying out of the trail to meet the educational goals of the landowner, making the trail (approximately 1 mile) using brush saws, chain saws, and a bulldozer, identifying points of interest and marking them, and producing a trail guide to be used by the landowner.
Another forester was tasked to design and build a cost effective and efficient boardwalk in order to allow the crossing of a wetland for outdoor classroom lessons. The boardwalk had to be designed and installed in such a manner as to not disturb the wetland and keep the students' feet dry.
Recently, the development of recreational trails has become very popular with many landowners. One NEFCo forester was involved in a project to develop a cross-country ski trail that was designed by a former Olympic cross-country ski contestant.
Another forester designed a recreational trail for a client based on the fact that the client uses a John Deere Gator to travel the woods. This vehicle required a specific trail width as well as keeping the turning radius to a minimum. At the stream crossings, the forester designed and built bridges to a specification based on the width of the Gator as well as the weight.
The majority of NEFCo foresters have been involved in the planning and development of viewsheds. While this assignment may sound simple enough, it does require many skills not associated with the traditional forester role. For example, a NEFCo forester assisted a landowner in determining a house site based on the projected view. Due to the fact that the property line ended prior to the edge of a lake, it was questionable that a view of the lake could be established. In order to verify that a lake view was possible prior to the cutting of any trees, calculations were needed using elevation, tree heights, and line of site slope to determine the potential view of various viewshed clearing options.
NEFCo foresters are continually being contacted concerning the clearing of house sites. Landowners are starting to realize that the clearing of the house site presents an opportunity to actually lessen the cost of the site due to the sale of the timber being cleared. Landowners are also starting to realize that not every tree is the same when considering the leaving of specific individuals for aesthetic purposes. They are seeking advice on which trees should remain on their house sites. For example, some species will not tolerate the shock of being immediately exposed to the sun after developing in a wooded environment. Also, root systems vary which can have an affect on septic systems or windthrow probability.
NEFCo foresters are often called upon to participate in commercial endeavors. Clients have come to realize that because of the wide variety of projects under the supervision of NEFCo, the foresters tend to be knowledgeable in a plethora of subjects that can assist in the execution of their individual project.
For example, a forester was called upon to play a major role in the establishment of a golf course. The general concept of the golf course was given to the forester and he was asked his advice on how to go about making it happen. Because the needs of our clients are so dynamic, we have developed the ability to put the requirements of a project in a perspective that is advantageous to the client on several levels. While the golf course designer had been receiving advice from other professionals, encouraging him to conduct a timber harvest, the NEFCo forester used a different approach by outlining the "big picture." This task utilized a cost/benefit analysis that included the cost of time. Essentially, the point was made that due to the large scope and expense of the project, the cost of time (waiting for a timber harvest to occur) had to be incorporated into the equation. This element was an aspect that was not understood by the designer in the past, and once recognized, it easily became the most important aspect of the project.
Having only the centerline of the fairways flagged out, the forester was then given the task of "roughing" in the golf course. Needless to say, the forester accomplished the task and that golf course is now recognized as one of the most beautiful in the northeast.
Another forester was tasked with establishing the ground work for a housing development. The forester was asked to assist the landowner with the permitting process, layout the road network, clearing the house sites, supervising the actual installation of the roads, and insuring that the permit stipulations were being followed. While we would prefer to keep the land forested, we can provide a service to a developer in situations where a housing development is inevitable by implementing a plan that has the least environmental impact.
The mapping technology and capability of NEFCo has increased dramatically over the past five years. All NEFCo foresters have handheld GPS units, the company also owns a higher caliber unit, and on staff, we have a GIS expert. NEFCo also owns large scale plotters capable of printing large scale maps.
All of the NEFCo foresters have been involved in a variety of mapping projects. One of the most common is the desire of many of our landowners to simply have a detailed map of their property. Not only does this type of mapping include the boundary lines, but also stonewalls, roads, trails, springs, streams, fields, buildings, etc. With our mapping and printing capabilities, we can produce a map that is extremely accurate and certainly suitable for framing. In most cases, this use is exactly what the landowner has in mind.
We have also been involved with some very large mapping projects that have nothing to do with forestry. A NEFCo forester was tasked to produce a map for a local golf course. Due to the fact that the golf course groundskeeper was approaching retirement age, the course management realized that once the groundskeeper left, all of the important information would leave with him. They had no maps of the golf course and had been simply relying on the groundskeeper's knowledge. The forester mapped the buildings, roads, fairways, greens and the irrigation system.
Another forester produced a map for a summer camp for kids. This map included the camp boundary, trails, various camp locations, and buildings. It also included the mapping of the septic systems piping, water system, and underground electrical system, etc.
Currently, a NEFCo forester is working with a ski area to develop a GIS database. This assignment will not only include the actual mapping of buildings, snowmaking piping, septic piping, etc., but will also include attributes of each system. For example, with a GIS system, it is possible to not only map and identify the snowmaking system, but it is also possible to incorporate information such as pipe size, type, and maintenance history. This information can be produced for almost every component that is being mapped, and once completed, all of this information will be available with the touch of the computer key.
Today wildlife is thought to go hand-in-hand with forestry. However, wildlife management simply tends to be a beneficial by-product of timber management. NEFCo is finding that wildlife habitat management is becoming a "stand alone" entity and in fact, it is not unusual for us to do wildlife habitat work with no intention of producing a timber product.
NEFCo has worked in conjunction with The Ruffed Grouse Society over the past five years, establishing and/or improving hundreds of acres of ruffed grouse habitat. We have also worked with various landowners and fish & game clubs improving deer habitat.
As landowners realize the breadth of knowledge and experience possessed by the NEFCo foresters, we quickly become more than foresters. In most instances, our initial contact with a landowner is forestry related, but over time, landowners start to rely on NEFCo personnel for complete property management.
For example, one NEFCo forester has become the property manager for two different farms. He is responsible for the forest, renting of the fields to local farmers, the renting of the barns, repairs to the buildings, posting the land, fixing the fences, and even insuring that the lawn gets mowed. Essentially, he has become the general contractor for the entire property. This convenience allows the landowner the luxury of dealing with only one person concerning all aspects of their property management needs.
Undoubtedly, the very nature of the landowner/forester relationship has fostered this expansion of services provided by NEFCo foresters. A landowner and forester tend to develop a very long-term relationship due to the simple fact that working with the forest is a long-term endeavor. Also, because the forester is taking responsibility for executing management actions that will have a long-term effect, the landowner develops a level of trust that is rare in the customer service business. Due to this trust, we are often asked to assist in the accomplishment of
objectives that would not normally be defined as forestry related. In essence, we tend to become the general contractor for all of the property management actions requested by the landowner.
These additional responsibilities are certainly a logical progression and indeed, make perfect sense. Due to the wide variety of tasks that must be performed in the production of timber, foresters must be knowledgeable in a wide variety of subjects. Therefore, a landowner should
not hesitate to relay all of his/her land management needs to a NEFCo forester. In all likelihood, the forester will be able to get the task accomplished.
- Tony Lamberton