Foresters eager to educate public
Members discuss balance of competing expectations, needs
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Representatives of the Society of American Foresters say the forest industry needs to tell the public about the profession and its desire to maintain trees for centuries.
Many forests are in need of management to remain healthy, said Michael Goergen, society executive vice president and CEO. But the public isn't aware of the resources forests provide in everyday life.
"You get into forestry because you care about forests, the environment and what those values bring to people," he said, noting many people are not aware the profession of forestry actually exists. "We need to do a better job of connecting what we do every day to care for our nation's forests to the people who depend on them, which is the nation as a whole."
About 1,600 people attended the national society's annual convention in Spokane Oct. 24-28.
The role of wildfires in forest management is one topic the members discussed.
Doug Rideout, Colorado State University forestry economics professor, said the industry is learning how to manage fires in the most productive way possible when they occur.
"Instead of taking a reactionary approach and dumping everything on them, we're learning how to work on some fronts to make them more productive for landscape benefits," he said.
Michael Kuhns, Utah State University professor and extension forestry specialist, said such management efforts cost money.
"It can be hundreds and hundreds of dollars per acre to go in to remove fuel (for the wildfires)," he said. "But to burn costs money, too. You have to surround it with people and equipment, because you have people's homes and watersheds that might be the water supply for a town."
Today's forestry students are entering a more challenging industry, Rob Lilieholm, University of Maine forest economics and policy associate professor, said. Forests will have to serve as a beautiful landscape and wildlife habitat, but they will also have to be productive.
Use of wood for biofuel is a huge opportunity for the industry, he added. It's a good way to get rid of overstocking in the forests as technology emerges to turn products into fuel and other byproducts.
Goergen said the society's job is to reach out to members and the public "to leverage the goodwill people have for forests and translate it into the will to do the right thing on the ground," he said.
Society of American Foresters: www.safnet.org