Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Green Job Series: Careers in Sustainable Forestry [First Installment]

Trees provide many of the products, including lumber, paper, and cloth, that we need in a modern economy. Sustainable forestry ensures that forests are used in the most effective way and trees are protected against the harmful effects of pollution, fires, pests, and diseases, and they are not overharvested in a manner that does not allow regrowth and regeneration.

Jobs that are involved in this balance of fulfilling consumer needs and preserving the forest environment relate to careers in sustainable forestry. This installment of The Daily Leap's green job series profiles selected forest conservation and logging occupations in sustainable forestry.

Forest Conservation and Logging Occupations

Forest and conservation workers and loggers who practice sustainable forestry cultivate and harvest thousands of acres of timber each year in environmentally friendly ways. Conservation and logging work is physically demanding, and logging jobs can be hazardous. Workers spend nearly all of their time outdoors, sometimes in poor weather and often in isolated areas. Loggers work in teams, with each worker specializing in a certain task.

Job Duties

Forest and conservation workers help to develop, maintain, and protect forests. Under the supervision of foresters and forest and conservation technicians, forest and conservation workers help to sustain and develop forests by doing tasks, such as planting seedlings or removing diseased trees. They may spray trees and seedlings with insecticides and fungicides, to control insects and weed growth.

Forest and conservation workers may work on tree farms, where they plant, cultivate, and harvest different types of trees. Workers who are employed by state and local governments clear brush and debris from trails, roadsides, and camping areas. Forest and conservation workers who have a fire protection background may help prevent fires by constructing fire breaks or assisting with controlled burns.

Fallers cut down trees with hand-held power chain saws and mobile felling machines. They ensure that the tree is cut safely, so that it falls in the direction desired to avoid hitting other workers or landing on equipment.

Logging equipment operators use tree harvesters to fell trees, shear tree limbs, and cut the trees into desired lengths. They drive tractors and operate self-propelled machines, called skidders or forwarders, which drag or transport logs to a loading area.

Log graders and scalers inspect logs for defects and measure the logs to determine their volume. They estimate the value of the logs or pulpwood (logs that are ground up for paper products). These workers often use handheld data collection devices to enter data about trees.

Other logging workers include buckers, who trim the tops and branches of felled trees and buck (cut) the logs into specific lengths; choke setters, who fasten chokers (steel cables or chains) around logs to be dragged by tractors or forwarded by a cable-yarding system; and rigging slingers and chasers, who set up and dismantle cables and guy wires of the yarding system. In addition, log sorters, markers, movers, and chippers sort, mark, and move logs based on species, size, and ownership, and they tend machines that chip up logs.

Education and Training

Forest and conservation workers typically need a high school diploma before they begin working. They generally get on-the-job training by helping more experienced workers. Most logging workers have a high school diploma. They get on-the-job training, to become familiar with forest environments and to learn how to operate logging machinery.

Many states have training programs for logging workers, which may include technical instruction or field training in areas such as best management practices, environmental compliance, and reforestation. Safety is a vital part of a logging worker’s instruction. Tree fallers require more skill and experience than do workers in other logging occupations, so fallers typically work under the direct supervision of more-experienced logging workers.


The table that follows shows wages for selected logging occupations in the forestry and logging subsector in May 2012. The wages shown are median annual wages for the United States as a whole; wages vary by employer and location.

Occupation Median annual wage
Forest and conservation workers $24,340
Fallers $35,250
Logging equipment operators $33,380
Log graders and scalers $32,880
Logging workers, all other $34,260

For more detailed information on forest conservation and logging occupations in sustainable forestry, follow the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

Next week's sustainable forestry installment: Fire Protection and Prevention Occupations.

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