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Author Topic: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?  (Read 959 times)

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Offline Chris Travels

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New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« on: February 12, 2017, 09:42:29 pm »
Thank you for reading my post. I plan to return to school Fall 2017 or Fall 2018 for an associates in forestry. However, I have been keeping an eye on how the current administration will be treating natural resources and the government agencies controlling said resources. Thus far I have not heard of anything concrete from the administration. But, I have researched HR-621 and HR-622. The latter is still up for vote and would remove Forest Service officers from public lands. I know my degree has nothing to do with this. But, correct me if I am wrong here, it seems as though this would have 2 negative outcomes for prospective students. One, if passed, the competition for finding jobs would increase. Two, regardless if it passes or not, it sets the standard for how the government is willing to sell of swaths of land for profit.

I am from the outside looking in here. Can someone shed some light on this for me? Is this the wrong time in history to be getting a forestry degree? Is the selling of public lands totally unrelated to obtaining a forestry degree? Has there been any hints/views into what this administration will do?

Chris

Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2017, 01:40:26 pm »
I don't have a clue what this administration is going to do.  As for getting your degree, what do you plan to do with it?  An Associates Degree may put you in the bush marking timber or taking samples if you work for a government or a large consulting firm.  The number crunching will be done by someone else.

I got a BS and ended up in the industrial section.  My area has lots of small mills.  I did consulting with landowners, but they proved to be fickle and I moved into mill operations.  The BS wasn't really needed for the mills operations, but it didn't hurt.  I also bought timber, bought and sold logs and lumber, and milled lumber.  Something you can do with an AS degree. 

The competition thing might happen, but it would only be a short lived thing.  Eventually, there wouldn't be as many students if the jobs dry up.  So, there may be a 1 or 2 year time span if things get tight.  Generally speaking, if the government sheds jobs, the industry probably could pick up the slack, unless we hit a recession.
Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Offline RPF2509

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2017, 02:55:33 pm »
Chris,  The fact is the forestry community is aging and the flux of retirees in the next decade will be big.  I got my BS 25 years ago when  a huge segment of the Forest Service was going to retirement.  They did but were not replaced and the FS is suffering now in not having people who know what to do and how to do it.  I still found a job in industry as did all my classmates.  Don't limit your focus to public employment.  I worked as a tech for state and federal government and could not stand all the posturing, paperwork and procedure.  Those I know that stuck with public agencies are only counting the days til they can retire.  If your idea of a career is a warm body at a desk, go public. I think too the days of a fat public pension are over so by the time you retire, if you haven't saved for it  you are out of luck. I  wanted to get something done and went to private and have had a fascinating career limited only by my imagination and willingness to expand my horizons.  Don't stop at an AS go all the way for a BS. Once you have it, it can't be taken away.  Being a brush monkey is great when you're young but after a time your body ages and though your mind is willing your knees won't want to go.  Administrations come and go every few years but the bureaucracy that puts policy to work is notoriously hard to get change course.  That notwithstanding our public forests are in dire need of young energy to literally get out the dead wood so there is a path there.  At a recent forestry conference I attended of 200, maybe a dozen were under 30.  There is a huge need to pass on the practical experience that is out there.  I have about a decade left before I hang up the hardhat and I don't see a replacement to train. Many young people seem to be focused on the theoretical side and forget that it takes practicality to accomplish things.

Offline Chris Travels

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2017, 10:38:33 pm »
Thanks for the responses. Both were full of great information and I appreciate that.

I currently live and travel full time in a Class A motorhome. I intend to keep it that way for the next 20 years or so. With that said, my goal is to find 1-6 month long assignments throughout the US. Once finished with an assignment, I will travel and live off of the money earned from the previous assignment. If my current residual income I have built continues to prosper, I plan to save that for retirement.

From what I have researched, the associates is all that is needed for most of the 1-6 month assignments. And if needed I could always return to school to acquire my bachelors. Does this sound like a feasible plan to you? Have you seen/worked my temporary assignments?

Chris

Offline Catenaut

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2017, 11:56:39 am »
We're seeing the old guard retiring at a rapid rate, especially with the recent consolidation in the industry (Weyco purchase Plum Creek etc.), so I believe that a forestry degree, a real BSF, is going to be in demand. With that being said, I would not, at all, consider a government position as the outlook for the FS and DoI is grim. As for your plan to live the life of a wandering nomad with an asso degree..well..it can be done, but I dont know anyone who actually enjoyed it for long. You'll most likely end up supervising a Latino crew of some sort or another; tree planting, timber cruising, cone picking, etc. Those are some long, cold, wet days..

Offline petefrom bearswamp

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2017, 09:28:47 am »
I am personally out of the loop regarding careers in forestry having been retired for 10 yrs.
My son with his BS degree is retiring from State service in June after 33 years and yes he is counting the days.
He passed up quite a few opportunities for promotion because as he tells me he is a dirt forester in his heart.
Getting tree marking paint on everything connected with timber marking is sort of a badge of honor.
The body aging comment is real as I can attest to having practiced as a consulting forester until age 69 with a hip done twice and both knees replaced.
I have several classmates now retired from the FS and they all lament how things changed there by the time of their retirement.
I forestry is your goal go for it regardless.

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Offline RPF2509

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2017, 03:33:12 pm »
Chris - sounds like you should learn how to timber cruise.  I know several people who made a living travelling about getting cruising contracts.  The one big advantage of cruising is you work by yourself or a small crew so it can be very flexible.  Working with a large crew like a planting crew is fraught with interpersonal relationships which can get old before the work does.  Cruising contracts are offered regularly by public agencies as well as private companies so the work is out there.  However you have to get the contract which means low bid which means you could be living tight for awhile.  Your low bid must be completed accurately if you want to keep working.  Inaccurate cruisers are seldom invited back and word of your work or lack thereof will get around.  When I graduated, the woods were littered with low bid cruisers trying to make a buck and survive - its probably not so competitive now but I'm not current.  Note that these contracts could send you into some of the most isolated and fearsome country on the continent.  The cruises are contracted out because the people in the know don't want to go there.  I would still suggest you go all the way and get your BS.  Sure you can always go back to school but sometimes life gets in the way.  Also know that the people who make the real money in cruising are the owners of the consulting company, not the field workers.  You might try working for someone at first to get a feel of the demands and get some experience.  Consultants are always looking for warm bodies willing to travel. 

Offline BradMarks

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2017, 07:30:10 pm »
I tend to agree with RPF, that learning how to timber cruise could satisfy your desire to work for awhile and then travel as you want and then work when you want again.  And yes, to be an employee of a consulting firm will not pay as much (usually) as being an independent contractor, but it is the place to start to get experience.  Only when your work is judged as very good to excellent should you consider going out on your own.  And lots of consulting firms involved in timber cruises PREFER to sub-contract to independent contractors, not wanting employees. All of that work is piece work/by the plot. You get what you put into it.  And, it may surprise some, but a degree is not a requisite for this type job, but it wouldn't hurt one bit. Personnally, I would take a well trained person w/o a degree over a new graduate for a short time position(6 mos). But I'm not hiring ;D, only involved in this type activity in my past. 

Offline Ron Scott

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2017, 03:41:18 pm »
I'd recommend at least getting the bachelors degree for better opportunities.
~Ron

Offline Wudman

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2017, 01:14:27 pm »
As has been said previously, a lot of current foresters are approaching retirement age.  My company will be losing about 30% of its workers in the next 5 years to retirement.  Young "dirt" foresters are not out there to replace them.  I conducted industry field tours for VA Tech forestry students for about 20 years.  Over that period of time, students interested in the industrial side of the business have diminished.  Students interested in GIS and computer applications have increased, but the folks that will drive the operations end of things have not.  The last tour that I hosted only had a handful of guys interested in pursuing a career in operations. 

I can understand your desire to travel early in your career.  If "Deadliest Catch" had been on when I was a teen, I would have been a "Hotshot" fighting fires in the summer and working a crab boat in the fall / winter.  I did get in on a little bit of firefighting while in college and saw some beautiful landscapes in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California along with some less than desirable congestion in Southern California.  The down side is that your body eventually wears out.  I'm closing in on 50 now and the body just can't take what it used to.  Foresters in the office will use any excuse to get to the woods.  Foresters in the woods will use any excuse to get back to the office.

We are also continuing to see increased regulation across the country.  Some one will be required to navigate that regulation.  Thirty years ago, I spent 90% of my time in a pickup or in the woods.  Now I spend the majority of my time behind a desk.  Companies have streamlined their operations and are doing more with fewer people.  Technology has assisted with that.  Modern day communication allows me to work from anywhere.  I can remain in near constant contact with anyone needed (as long as I have a cell signal).  As we work alone and can be hundreds of miles from any coworkers, we carry GPS tracking devices and check in that way.  Somebody will know where to look for me if a safety issue arises.

I spent two hours this morning on a Webinar learning the latest changes to the "Worker Protection Standard" related to herbicide application.  These changes will significantly increase my workload, require coordination of multiple entities on a daily basis, and drastically increase record keeping requirements.  Thank you EPA!  Anyway, I would go ahead and get that BS degree.  I enjoy my job most of the time. 

Wudman   

Offline CJennings

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2017, 05:13:57 pm »
I've been working seasonally with the USFS for a couple years and have a job offer this summer to continue doing so. I've been in Michigans UP and was in NH last year. I've done timber marking, a little cruising, TSI work with brush saws (that gets boring after a while let me warn you, but I enjoy timber marking), and a bit of fire (prescribed and wild). I've seen about half of the states in this country in 2 years time and met a lot of great people (some not so much but that's true everywhere). What I see for the next 4 years is close to zero chances of a permanent job with the forest service though I won't even try to really predict this administration. I certainly lost any chance at the pathways recent graduates jobs (2 years since graduation ends for me in May and we have the hiring freeze in effect). I've seen that many districts are understaffed. The last district I was on had just a few permanent foresters, one permanent technician, and it meant we had pretty high GS level foresters doing some of the field work by necessity because there wasn't staffing to do it otherwise. Very inefficient. But they were dedicated to getting things done with what resources they had. One of the fire techs in my last district has been working seasonally for over a decade with little hopes of a permanent job.

I'll give it a bit more time as I love working for the forest service but eventually I'm going to need a permanent job. I'm already working way below my educational level to be with the forest service (I have an MF, while working as a technician). Right now it works for me. On the side I'm starting up a butternut breeding project on my property. Small but I have hopes for a canker resistant tree. In the winter I'm building up my property, building a cabin, orchard, planning a sugar shack, and more. That won't work forever. I had plans to start a consulting business and may eventually (somewhat doubtful) but the state of Vermont passed a forester licensing law that is an obstacle to that.

I will absolutely echo the advice of others and go for a B.S. or higher. My crew leader I had in Michigan would make a fine forester but he's limited by his 2 year degree to being a technician. You may find you like working private industry too. I personally don't but everyone has their preferences.

Offline RPF2509

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2017, 01:40:47 pm »
CJ  Why is a license an obstacle - they way I look at it its an employment opportunity.  Get studying and pass that exam or get the field experience - whatever it takes.  When there is a license process it automatically weeds out the riff raff and narrows the competition.  I have a license in CA.  The pass rate for the CA exam is generally less than 50% with only a few dozen people taking it each year.  Is there a shortage of licensed forester in CA - yes and it will get worse, meaning more opportunities and better pay for those with a license.  Whether you agree with the system or not is moot. It is what it is and jumping through the hoops is part of the game to be played.  FYI  - I wrote 42 pages in 7 hours to pass my exam and studied for 6 months before hand but I only had to do it once.

Offline CJennings

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Re: New Administration > New Forestry Degree?
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2017, 11:56:18 am »
https://www.sec.state.vt.us/professional-regulation/list-of-professions/foresters/frequently-asked-questions.aspx

I don't have 8 years of experience. I got my master's 2 years ago. The state told me they would not recognize the experience I have had with the Forest Service doing field work. I have no worries about passing the SAF's exam but I don't care to give them any of my money either. They rammed this through in the last days of the legislative session without much real public input and wrote the licensing rule to exclude other professional associations and made the grandfather clause excessively restrictive. They put some friends of mine out of business because they likewise don't have the experience they want for licensing. Charging more money here for your services is not an advantage as most of the woodlots are smaller and owners not too inclined to even use a forester to begin with. A landowner can still legally write their own forest plan for purposes of current use taxation so there's no market guarantee there either. We're a small rural state so bad foresters got weeded out quick anyways. You can't hide here.