Forestry Technician/Technologist

What does a forestry technician/technologist do? Forestry technicians/technologist s work closely with other forestry professionals to manage, conserve, and harvest forests. Forestry technicians/technologists play a key role in the management of Canada’s forest resources, contributing to the balance of sustainability and demand for wood products.

At a Glance

Imagine that it's a hot, dry summer day, the sun beating down on the scarred land you're standing on. You've come to this site to evaluate the blackened trees, victims of last summer's massive forest fire that burned more than 2,000 hectares of boreal forest.

You are a forestry technician, and you work as part of a team that monitors forest regrowth following blazes such as this one. Today, you are looking for regeneration among the charred remains, a sign that plant life is recovering.

Given that fire is a natural process in the boreal forest, in most cases, your team will not actively treat this burn by reseeding or replanting saplings, but rather let nature take its course.

But, before that decision is made, you need to know that the area will recover on its own.

As a forestry technician, you function as the team's eyes and ears, gathering data that will be used to make forest management decisions.

As the team's eyes, you first photograph the area as a qualitative measure of recovery. These photos can be compared to photos taken right after the fire swept through to demonstrate the amount of regeneration in the area over the last 12 months.

Once this is complete, you will gather quantitative evidence, for example, soil samples. You will take several soil cores that will be analyzed in the lab for indicators such as organic content and evidence of germination.

These cores will also measure how deeply into the ground the fire burned. In addition to soil samples, you will examine the new green growth, recording the colonizing species and looking for new shoots or runners from tree roots that survived the fire.

You will record all this data and bring it to your team members, who will analyze the different indicators of growth and revival and decide if the area needs their assistance for recovery.

Job Duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a forestry technician:

  • Assist with reforestation efforts, including working in nurseries, preparing sites, seeding, planting, controlling weeds, and pruning
  • Assess sites for reclamation and rehabilitation work
  • Carry out and supervise seed harvesting and cultivation of young trees
  • Take samples and forest measurements, including species, height, diameter, age, and quality
  • Manage, coordinate, and assist with forest fire-fighting efforts or controlled burns
  • Enforce fire protection regulations to protect forest zones
  • Survey, measure, and map forest areas and access roads
  • Assess the new growth of areas previously logged
  • Supervise the use of herbicides and insecticides to implement pest, weed, and disease control
  • Monitor compliance with regulations governing forest operations and provincial and Crown land management
  • Inspect sites for environmental field reports to assess new areas for oil and gas activity
  • Conduct and supervise forest inventory cruises, surveys and field measurement
  • Perform technical functions in preparation of forest management and harvest plan
  • Assist in planning and supervise the construction of access routes and forest roads
  • Implement, supervise and perform technical functions in silvicultural operation
  • Monitor activities of logging companies and contractors
  • Enforce environmental, fire safety and accident prevention regulation
  • Provide forestry education, advice and recommendations to woodlot owners
  • Develop and maintain computer databases
  • Supervise forest tree nursery operations
  • Provide technical support to forestry research
  • Assist in planning and supervise the construction of access routes and forest roads
  • Implement, supervise and perform technical functions in silvicultural operations involving site preparation, planting, and tending of tree crops
  • Co-ordinate activities such as timber scaling, forest fire suppression, disease or insect control or pre-commercial thinning of forest stands
  • Supervise and perform technical functions in forest harvesting operations
  • Monitor activities of logging companies and contractors and enforce regulations such as those concerning environmental protection, resource utilization, fire safety and accident prevention
  • Provide forestry education, advice and recommendations to woodlot owners, community organizations and the general public
  • Develop and maintain computer databases
  • Select and mark trees to be cut
  • Track where wildlife goes, help build roads and maintain trails, campsites, and other recreational facilities
  • Survey regrowth on cut areas
  • Survey trees and collect samples of plants, seeds, foliage, bark, and roots to record insect and disease damage
  • Use aerial photographs, global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS) to map and collect data on forest areas.

Work Environment

Forestry technicians/technologist work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to:

In the field:

  • Taking samples and measuring forest characteristics
  • Working in remote locations in all weather conditions, including from small aircraft and in potentially dangerous situations, such as forest fires Inspecting land and forest activities

In the office:

  • Analyzing data on the computer, including database management
  • Working with other professionals to contribute information to long-term management plans and reporting procedures
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, and the public

In the lab:

  • Processing specimens and samples

Where to Work

There are a number of places forestry technicians/technologists can find employment. They include:

  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Conservation authorities
  • Logging companies
  • Oil, mining, and power companies
  • Forestry and environmental consulting firms
  • Land service companies


Search for jobs on the ECO Canada job board.

Education and Skills

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a forestry technician/technologist is a technical diploma. The following post-secondary programs are most applicable to a career in this field:

  • Forestry
  • Natural resource management
  • Renewable resource management

Some provinces require certification to work as a forestry technician/technologist. Also, some specializations require certification, for example scaling or tree marking.

The requirements for certification vary among provinces. If you are a high school student considering a career as a forestry technician/technologist, you should have a strong interest in:

  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Physical education
  • Computer sciences
  • Geography

Skills

Hard/Technical Skills (skills obtained through formal education and training programs)

  • Computer and information systems
  • Using specialized instruments and equipment
  • Computer-aided design

Soft Skills (personal attributes and characteristics)

  • Professional communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Numeracy

Education and Skills

David Caldwell

Fort McMurray, located in northeastern Alberta, is most often associated with massive tar sands operations, but Fort McMurray is also at the heart of the thriving forestry industry. Today, forest workers like David Caldwell continue the tradition. A forest technician trained at the Alberta Technical College, David monitors forestry activities for his employer, Northland Forest Products, to make sure they meet all provincial government regulations. "In this job, the work changes frequently," David says. "A lot depends on the season.

During the summer, I do quality checks on the work of planting contractors, monitor herbicide applications or calculate requirements for seedlings to replace harvested trees. In the fall, it's regeneration surveys to meet government standards. In the winter, my tasks might include lumber scaling-taking measurements to determine how much wood has been harvested." A lot rides on the accuracy of David's work.

Stumpage fees-taxes paid to the government for the harvesting of trees-are assessed on his calculations and confirmed by government spot site audits. If there is a difference of more than 3% between David's calculations and the government's, there is a lot of explaining to do. What's best about the job? "I enjoy dealing with a lot of different people," David says. "In my work, I encounter executives, trappers, contractors, government inspectors and company staff. I also enjoy working outside-especially in the winter, when the best way to get around the bush is by snowmobile."

Your Impact

Forestry technologists and technicians may work independently or perform technical and supervisory functions in support of forestry research, forest management, forest harvesting, forest resource conservation and environmental protection.

This is an outdoor career, and certain positions require working in relative isolation while others demand constant contact with the public.

The solitary positions are more scientific and include functions such as the collection, testing, and analysis of plant and animal samples. This data is used in insect and disease control, wildlife research, resource management, and environmental impact studies.

Public positions for a forestry technician are located in campgrounds and developed recreational areas. These positions handle issuing special use permits, law enforcement, fire prevention, and community education.

Forestry technicians, as they are defined in this profile, work under the supervision of foresters or forest technologists. They may be involved primarily in:

  • silviculture - as members of site preparation, tree planting or stand-tending crews, or as nursery workers or crew supervisors
  • timber management - as compass persons, regeneration surveyors, timber cruisers or mapping technicians
  • forest protection - performing insect - and disease - control activities, or as aerial observers, firefighters, heli-tack or rappel crew members, sector leaders, fire lookout personnel (tower personnel), timekeepers, radio operators, forestry warehouse persons or air tank base managers or assistants
  • forest harvesting - operating equipment, supervising logging, checking log quality, doing pre-harvest or post-harvest assessments, scaling or grading timber, or laying out cutting blocks or roads.

Occupational Classification

Individuals employed as forestry technicians/technologists may be classified as:

NOC Code: 2223- Forestry Technicians and Technologists

NOC Code: 2122- Forestry Professionals

What is a NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data, describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

The NOC is developed and updated in partnership with Statistics Canada to coincide with the 5- year census cycles. It is based on in-depth occupational research and consultations conducted across Canada, to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market.

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

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