From the Series: "Looking Into Your Woodlot" - Short Articles on Woodlot Management. More complete information is available from the authors or by contacting your local NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for direct technical assistance. This series is a cooperative effort between Cornell Cooperative Extension and the New York Forest Owners Association. Reproduction of intact articles is granted for non-profit educational purposes.

Selecting a Forester to Serve Private Landowner Needs

Peter J. Smallidge. State Extension Forester, Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension, Department of Natural Resources, Ithaca, NY. pjs23@cornell.edu (607) 255 - 2115. http://www.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/forestrypage


(version 1 - approx. 860 words)


Working with a professional forester can increase the benefits you receive from your forest and ensure that your objectives are met. Collecting a few pieces of information will help you find the right forester for your needs.

Forestry professionals are an important part of the forest management process. While we have all spent time walking through and enjoying various aspects of forests, forests are complex in their function and diverse in what they have to offer. Just as you seek assistance from professionals with other complex tasks, a forester helps you efficiently complete your tasks and pays attention to your objectives. A landowner who finds the right forester will typically receive more net money and have more trees remaining in better condition in their woodlots following a harvest than forest owners who try to conduct a harvest without a forester. With current prices for timber, the presence of a forester can mean the difference of many extra thousand dollars plus a healthy vibrant forest.

In New York there is no legal definition of a forester, so landowners must take extra precautions to know who they hire. Foresters fall into one of three categories. There are public foresters employed by the Department of Environmental Conservation or Cornell Cooperative Extension who for free will assist landowners. Private consultant foresters represent landowners and your interests for a fee. Industrial foresters work for a forest industry (a sawmill for example) and offer services to forest owners to provide timber and other forest products for their employer. Outside the categories of foresters are people who call themselves foresters, but lack the education and experience to provide services needed by the landowner. This fourth category is often called "timber brokers" and while they can assist with selling the timber they can't ensure the integrity of the forest or the objectives of the landowner. Make sure you talk to several potential foresters, ask for a resume, look at credentials from a professional society, and call the references provided.

Only you can select a forester that meets your needs. You need someone you trust and feel comfortable with. The forester needs to understand your objectives, interests, and limitations. The right forester for you may not be the right one for your neighbor. If you pick the right one, you can enjoy a long-term relationship that should be profitable for both of you and ensure the sustainability of your forest.

Department of Environmental Conservation service foresters are available for limited assistance at no cost to the landowner. They are responsible for several federally funded cost share programs, administering the New York forest tax laws, Sections 480 and 480-a, and serving as a catalyst to encourage landowners to actively manage this state's dynamic, renewable forest resource. These individuals are the best place to start for they are a free source of unbiased information. DEC foresters can evaluate your resource and offer suggestions on how to proceed.

Private consultant foresters can offer in-depth services. They should represent the forest owner as their agent whether selling timber, making a forest tax law application, or completing a variety of forest management practices like planting trees or marking property boundaries. Ethically, the consultant's first responsibility is to the landowner. The relationship is similar to that one would expect with a lawyer or doctor. Because of this relationship, the consultant is dependent on his or her fee for survival. While a private consultant forester charges a fee for services, the investment typically pays much greater returns. Whether the fee is hourly, per acre, or as a commission of a timber sale, the consultant works for the landowner and thus the landowner should get several price quotes and set the ground rules of the relationship.

Industrial foresters often offer their services for free, for a commitment of the timber, or perhaps right of first refusal. Forest industry companies that employ industrial foresters typically have their own policies of operation. One company may offer services for image and not require any commitment on the timber. Others may expect the right to bid on or purchase any timber harvested in return for those services.

Any of these types of foresters deserve consideration. However, the individual who calls himself or herself a forester but can produce no credentials demonstrating they have professional training as a forester is likely just interested in maximizing their revenue potential. Just as you need a logger or timber harvester to extract the resource, you need a forester to manage the process and ensure that your ownership objectives are met. With all foresters, make sure you ask plenty of questions before agreeing to a contract.

So what should you do next. A good, and inexpensive, first step is to contact a DEC forester or a Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Forest Owner (MFO) volunteer. MFOs are not foresters, but are forest owners like you who have been trained by Cornell Cooperative Extension to help you get started with forest management. MFO volunteers will likely recommend you contact a DEC forester for professional guidance, but they can help prepare you to optimally utilize your time when the DEC forester arrives. So, think through what you want to accomplish with your forests, and start asking questions. For more information contact the nearest DEC or CCE office or visit the Cornell Forestry Extension web page at http://www.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/forestrypage


(version 2 - approx. 340 words)

Forestry professionals are an important part of the forest management process. While we have all spent time walking through and enjoying various aspects of forests, forests are complex in their function and diverse in what they have to offer. Just as you seek assistance from professionals with other complex tasks, a forester helps you efficiently complete your tasks and pays attention to your objectives.

In New York there is no legal definition of a forester, so landowners must take extra precautions to know who they hire. Foresters fall into one of three categories. There are public foresters employed by the Department of Environmental Conservation or Cornell Cooperative Extension who for free will assist landowners. Private consultant foresters represent landowners and your interests for a fee. Industrial foresters work for a forest industry (a sawmill for example) and offer services to forest owners to provide timber and other forest products for their employer. Outside the categories of foresters are people who call themselves foresters, but lack the education and experience to provide services needed by the landowner. This fourth category is often called "timber brokers" and while they can assist with selling your timber they can't ensure the integrity of the forest or the objectives of the landowner. Make sure you talk to several potential foresters, ask for a resume, look at credentials from a professional society, and call the references provided.

Any of these types of foresters deserve consideration. With all foresters, make sure you ask plenty of questions before agreeing to a contract.

So what should you do next. A good, and inexpensive, first step is to contact a DEC forester or a Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Forest Owner (MFO) volunteer. MFOs are not foresters, but are forest owners like you who have been trained by Cornell Cooperative Extension to help you get started with forest management. So, think through what you want to accomplish with your forests, and start asking questions. For more information contact the nearest DEC or CCE office or visit the Cornell Forestry Extension web page at http://www.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/forestrypage

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