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September / October 2003

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UMaine Today Magazine

Training Tomorrow's Forest Managers
Back to Future Forests-]

Wood Pile
Photo by Jack Walas

Getting an education in forest resources has changed from the 1920s when students attending forestry camp lived alongside hard driving loggers during a north woods winter. Forestry today is a high tech balancing act of ecology, engineering, timber production, public recreation and financial planning. Not surprisingly, computers and global positioning systems have become as crucial to foresters as chainsaws are to woodcutters.

Today's forestry students receive training in all of these areas, says David Field, chair of the Department of Forest Management. They learn to use satellite-based remote sensing to identify changes in forested landscapes. They gain experience with the tools of the woods trade from draft horses to skidders and Swedish low impact logging systems. They learn to put forest resources into an increasingly integrated global economic and environmental context.

At its heart, Field adds, forestry provides the skill and knowledge to grow trees. "That's what we do that distinguishes foresters from other professionals. But our degree programs are very broad. They prepare students for a wide variety of careers," he adds.

Demand is increasing for foresters among public agencies and the private sector. The U.S. Forest Service expects to see a large portion of its foresters retire within the next five years. Across the country, the federal government, including the Department of Defense, employs the largest contingent of foresters. In Maine, professionals working for non-industrial landowners manage the overwhelming majority of forested acres.

"Forestry is an exciting and demanding profession," says Field. "It's not easy. It is based in science, and there is increasing integration of the U.S. forest economy with Asia, Europe and South America." Broad skills and practical experience put professional foresters at the forefront of sustainable environmental management, Field adds.


UMaine Today Magazine
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