Forestry Consulting – Where It Has Been and Its Future
I started my forestry career in 1991, like many of my peers, as a compass-person for the cruising department of a well-known local timber consultant while in college. My summers were filled with wall tents, helicopters, bugs and bears while learning the operational skills that form the foundation of being a well-rounded forester. We were often dropped off with our gear in extremely remote areas and were not checked on again for 10 days or more. This was a right of passage for almost any aspiring professional in the consulting world and was the common path to take in your career. Very few, if anybody, jumped into an adminis-trative role directly after school.
In 1994, there became a strong movement within the forest industry by the sawmills to hire summer students and run crews of their own in addition to utilizing timber consultants. Some senior workers from the consulting firms moved over to the mills in managerial positions and helped build up a knowledge base for these companies. This signaled the end of being a consultant and ushered in a 15- to 20-year era of timber contracting. This was a time of following very prescriptive orders and regulations versus providing specialized expertise and opinion.
As the mountain pine beetle came onto the scene, harvest quotas increased sharply throughout Northern British Columbia and there was often more work than people to do it. The vast areas of relatively flat ground where the pine trees grew was perfect for timber contracting, not a lot of professional rationale was required. Because of the huge amount of work available and subsequent shortage of foresters, it became common for mills and the government to either directly place recent graduates into administrative positions or fast-track the process. The days of a forest planner being someone with 20 years of experience had come to an end. Many interesting things have happened in the forest industry in the last five to 10 years that will have a profound effect on forestry consulting into the next decade:
- The vast tracts of operably easy pine ground are gone
- Many industry and competitor’s crews have become accustomed to “from town” work and hotel or logging camp accommodations
- There has been a significant draw of senior foresters to other sectors as well as retirement
- First Nations claims, settlements and initiatives are at the forefront of the forest sector
- There continues to be an influx of forestry graduates with limited operation-oriented field experience into planning and administrative roles in industry and government
When Spectrum’s Timber Development Department was created eight years ago, it was obvious we had to set ourselves apart from our competition to be successful. We are accomplishing this by tackling the challenges listed above head on. We volunteered for the most remote and challenging areas; we were the first local consultant to enter as pioneers into winch-assist harvesting layout on steep ground. We resurrected the concept of wall-tent camping to service these remote areas as well as became one of the few companies to put chainsaws safely into our workers’ hands so we could get where others could not.
Our staff has a range of certifications including:
- 3 Professional Foresters
- 2 Registered Forest Technicians
- 3 Foresters-in-Training
- 2 Allied Science Foresters-in-Training
- 1 Training Forest Technologist
They are each gaining the solid foundation of operational skills that is vital to build their careers upon. Spectrum also has created many solid First Nations partnerships; we entered into this arena in a big way over the last two seasons in our line clearing work and have used this momentum to forge several new agreements in our department that will prove to be instrumental in securing us work this summer. In the last year, we have also launched into professional forestry providing a suite of services that starts with planning areas of interest and concludes with getting replanted areas submitted back to the government.
Spectrum is ready for the future. We are reliable contractors who get to challenging areas and do a good job, and trusted consultants who provide the professional services and expertise our clients need.