Enjoying a life of forestry


It’s good to be a forester. Sometimes this fact can be overlooked amid economic upheaval or uneducated media coverage, but working in the trees is a great life.

If we needed any reminding, three recent news stories from the Northwest did the trick.

At a recent tree planting near Corvallis, Ore., there was the inspiring sight of 23 high-school forestry students teaching younger children about the power of forestry. Here is video and a photo gallery of the tree planting.

(Philomath High School forestry and natural resources teacher Simon Babcock) said the majority of the volunteer high-schoolers participating were his forestry students along with a few of their friends. He estimated this year’s number at around 23.

Babcock’s advanced forestry students have spent two weeks leading up to the event setting up plots and learning about different reforestation techniques.

“Their role is to basically mentor the other students that might be coming from the other classes,” Babcock said, adding that the activity provides a leadership component. “They’ve also been through this multiple times and they kind of get that lead role of seniors and juniors in advance classes.”

For (Philomath High School Junior Anna Collins), she has fun teaching youngsters new skills.

“It’s good experience because I want to go into forest management and this provides good connections to see people,” Collins said. “It’s cool to see younger kids coming out and planting trees and being able to help them and demonstrate (is satisfying) because it’s something not a lot of kids get to do, especially if they live in cities.”

In Roseburg, Ore., young locals are coming back to the city to work in the timber industry and give back to the local community.

Born and raised in Roseburg, Joe Newton is currently a field forester at Lone Rock Resources, helping to establish and grow new forests. He graduated from Roseburg High School before attending Oregon State University to study forest management and play football. After school, Newton spent two seasons on the practice squad for the Seattle Seahawks.

“I got a chance to live in the big city for a few years, but then it was time to get a real job, so I got a great job back in Roseburg doing what I wanted to do,” Newton said. “It really just happened that way. I had no idea where I was going to end up.”

He said he doesn’t miss the big city and he’s glad he got to come back to Roseburg.

He said the recession hit the timber industry particularly hard, and he was lucky to get a job with a really good company in his hometown.

The father of a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, Newton said he’d love to keep working at Lone Rock and living in Douglas County. He said he values the people and community here.

“There are a lot of really good quality people and those relationships are really valuable to me,” Newton said. “This is a fantastic place to be a forester.”

Nancy Napier is a professor at Boise State University, unrelated to forestry, but was inspired by a recent visit to a local forestry gathering in which she spoke.

When I was asked to speak to the group, I admitted (as I always do) that I knew nothing about the industry or organizations in it but would like to. So I asked a naïve question: What do foresters do? And it turns out they can teach the rest of us something about building cultures.

Foresters plant seeds or seedlings of trees and nurture them. They try to be sure the environment, including the surrounding soil, helps the trees grow into healthy forests. They watch for trees that become sick and treat them or cull them, to avoid having weak ones destroy the healthy ones. They encourage clusters of trees (forests) to grow, because clumps are likely stronger than a single tree.

Sounds a lot like building a thriving organizational culture to me.