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Vocational Forest Worker  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotVocational forestry includes a wide range of activities. "It's the whole soup and nuts of forestry practice," says forestry teacher Alan Angrignon, a teacher at the Forestry Training Center in Port Angeles, Washington.

dotAll timber cutters and logging workers are classified as vocational forestry workers. Fallers cut down trees with chainsaws. Buckers trim the tops and branches off the trunks and cut the trees to length. Logging tractor operators drive crawlers or wheeled tractors to skid logs from the felling site to the landing.

"These are jobs [using equipment] like skidder drivers and feller-bunchers, which are machines that can cut trees and move them to the landing," says Angrignon.

dotVocational forest workers might clear brush, trim trees, mark logs, stack pulpwood logs and do numerous other site-specific tasks.

dotIn the logging process, a logging block of certain trees is selected. Forest workers then help make skid trails and roads to the block. Logging truck drivers usually pick up the logs, except in a few areas of the country where logs are transported by rail. The use of helicopters is becoming more common as an environmentally sound way to remove logs.

dotOnce logging is finished in an area, other workers take over. Silviculture and forestry workers plant tree seedlings, thin and space trees in reforestation areas, control weeds and undergrowth and fight forest fires. While trying to improve and conserve forest lands, vocational forest workers may also collect seed cones, or prune and mark trees.

dotLogging companies, contractors, forestry management companies, government departments, pulp and paper manufacturers and wood manufacturers employ the majority of these workers.

dot"There is a general trend to become more mechanized in the woods because of high workers' compensation rates and because the labor force available is actually shrinking," says Angrignon. This means that workers will need more technical skills and education than before.

dotThe vocational forestry worker's job may be becoming more mechanized, but it's also expanding to include more duties.

"Before, a person used to just do one job as if they were on an assembly line," says Angrignon. "Now workers have more responsibility in making decisions about tree selections, quality control and forest layout."

dotForestry workers are often forced to work early morning shifts to stay out of hot weather, to avoid fire risk and to take advantage of daylight. Usually they stop work for periods of time during winter freeze up and spring thaw.

dotSome forestry workers stay in camps at the logging site, but many spend long hours commuting from home to work each day.

dotThis is a physically demanding job that requires climbing, lifting and other strenuous activities. The conditions are hazardous -- forestry workers have to be on the lookout for falling trees and branches, and must take special care when handling logs and using saw equipment.

dotThe high noise level of sawing and skidding operations can impair hearing if proper ear protection isn't worn. It's essential that forest workers wear safety gear, such as hard hats, eye and hearing protection, safety clothing and boots.

At a Glance

Perform the manual work involved in the forestry industry

  • This job is physically demanding
  • Workers spend most of their time outside in the woods
  • Safety is essential; there is potential for serious injury