Have you ever considered getting paid to help protect and manage our forests? To find your way to becoming a forester with firefighting responsibilities in the wild, start with love of the outdoors and of course TREES! If this field interests you, it’s never too early to start planning your career.
In addition to knowing about trees and forestry practices, you also need to learn about other parts of the forest ecosystem. We will not have trees without soil, so some foresters are studying soil science. And we would not have land without rocks and wind and rain and ice, so some are studying geology and meteorology. And we would not have had big money if it were not for properly managed forests, so knowing about birds, insects and all kinds of animals is also important for foresters.
Mathematics is another important aspect of a forester. It is beneficial to know how big, tall, old and crowded the trees are in a forest. That information helps make important management decisions. Some management questions foresters are asking is, is it time to cut down trees? Should we prune the trees so that they are straight and tall? Do we need to plant more trees? Should we take action against an insect or disease that threatens the trees? These are all decisions that a forester helps to make.
Many foresters in Wisconsin also have wildfire responsibilities, so it is important to have experience in both fields. To become a wildfire fighter, it is important to understand key fire management principles and how the weather plays an important role in how fire occurs. Understanding fire suppression tactics and how specialized equipment is used in forest fire management is also important. Knowing about the Incident Command System, which is used to organize resources into major natural resource disasters, is another chore.
Let’s not forget, you must be in good physical shape! Dragging heavy fire equipment, laying a hose and digging a line of fire can be exhausting work. Foresters with fire line responsibilities must meet the moderate level “work capacity test,” or physical fitness standard, by completing two miles with a twenty-five-pound pack in less than 30 minutes.
Most professional foresters have at least a bachelor’s degree in forestry. Many also have a master’s degree. If you want to be a forester, you have to plan to go to university. While in high school, take science, math, and English classes. Summer work or volunteer work in natural resource management will also give you valuable experience.
Some foresters work for the government, including federal, state, district or city. Other foresters can work for wood or paper companies. Some foresters are private consultants who work for themselves or a consulting company.
Advantages of being a forester:
- Wear jeans and boots to work almost every day!
- Spend time outdoors all year round
- Work with landowners who want to learn and care for their forests
- Talk to children about the benefits of trees and forests
- Show how to properly plant and care for tree seedlings
- Help decide when it’s time to cut down trees
- Protect lives, property and natural resources from veld fires
Challenges of being a forester:
- Meet people who think forests are a waste of land
- To see a forest that is not properly managed
- Witness of wasted forest products
- To see a forest destroyed by fire, insects, diseases or human development
- Wildfires are unpredictable and can sometimes lead to an irregular work schedule
- Fighting fires is a rewarding but sometimes very dangerous job
Visit the DNR’s Forestry website here for more information on how to become a forester, veldfire fighter or to contact a forester in your area.
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