I Love Trees

This is what a plantation looks like, it's hardly a monoculture

I love trees. I love them standing. And I love them horizontal. I love them on the stump and off. I love all the stuff they provide, tangible and intangible.  I love all the types of forests that exist, young, old, and in between.

My name is Norm and I’m a forester. It’s good to finally say it, after all these years.

I recently met others of my kind at the California Licensed Foresters Association (CLFA) convention, March 4-6 in Sacramento. The Hilton’s parking lot held more pickup trucks than a Hollywood gala has Prius sedans.

It’s easy to recognize a working foresters’ pickup. And, don’t let the patina of dirt and mud-caked splashes around the wheel wells fool you, you’ll see that on the trucks of people who just play in the mud. Foresters don’t play in the mud. They work in mud during winter. And they work in ankle-deep dust in the summer. The way to spot a forester’s pickup is found in the back of the truck. There you’re apt to see the tools of our trade: chainsaws, handsaws, double-bit axes, loppers, shovels, tow straps, plastic flagging, and fueling dispensers (complete with nozzles and meters. You may also see some odd looking stuff with even odder names: hoedads, dibbles, McLeods, Pulaskis, and log chokers. You’ll also find tree bark, leaves, and more dirt in the back of a forester’s truck.

It’s easy to recognize foresters. Inside the Hilton, we stood out like bib overalls at a black tie affair. Carhartt jeans and plaid-flannel shirts are the most common. We didn’t don our normal footwear, our caulked (pronounced “corked”) boots, which was fortunate for the floors. By the way, do you know how to recognize an extroverted forester? He (or she, yes, there are women in the woods) is the one looking at the other person’s boots.

Like nerds, we possess an impaired fashion sense (we wouldn’t know couture from a coat rack), love of Skol, and all things earth, foresters are quite intelligent. They aren’t knuckle-draggers, far from it. Our group included several PhDs and scads of Bachelor of Science degrees. Almost every attendee was an RPF (Registered Professional Forester).

The RPF license requires seven year’s forestry experience and successfully passing a killer comprehensive exam. The exam covers everything about managing forests including: silviculture, surveying, vegetation management, forest protection, forest sampling and measurement procedures, timber growth, yield, and utilization; forest economics, forest valuation, statistics, and soils science, silviculture (forest care), mensuration (forest and tree measurements), dendrology (tree identification), wood technology (identification and wood characteristics: tensile and elasticity), to name just a few.

Despite working in the only industry that is net carbon-positive (see the table on this post ), we’re in an industry struggling to stay alive. I’m sure some can’t wait to dance on forestry’s grave and have thrown lawsuits large enough to choke a bear. Due, in part to their efforts at helping logging’s demise along, costs of producing THPs (Timber Harvesting Plan) have risen 1200 percent over the past 30 years. It’s a formula to squeeze some of the greenest jobs out of the state. As I said, we cut trees to grow trees because what is left standing is the important part. A t-shirt I saw said it more succinctly than I, “Trees. Cut ‘em down…they grow back! DUH!!!”

Stumps, logging slash of bark and branches, and skidding trails can look nearly devastated. I already see the decades beyond. My training has ingrained in me the need to monitor progress and see what has and hasn’t worked. Not everyone sees harvesting as I do.

The folks who don’t like logging also love trees. We have tree-hugging in common. They hug, perhaps, to tactilely become one with the tree and totally grok its nature. I hug trees to throw a D-tape around them to measure diameters for subsequent volume calculations. That’s my nature. Different flings for different things. You love trees your way I love trees my way.

I love trees. How do you love trees?

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