Words from the Woods | ACF Blog Archive

 

2022
January February March April May June
July August September October November December

 

2021
January February March April May June
July August September October November December

 

October | 2022

Celebrating Four Years at ACF

by Lucy Firebaugh

Four years ago this week, I began a journey that I had no idea would turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. Four years ago, I walked into the ACF national office, that had just been relocated from Alexandria to Williamsburg, Virginia, and started my first day as Member Services Coordinator, serving hundreds of consulting foresters from all over the nation.

Did I have any idea what a consulting forester was? Nope! Did I know anything about national associations and how they operated? Honestly, not really! But I did have prior experience managing memberships for a local indoor sports complex, and during that time I developed a passion for connecting and networking with folks who had evident passions of their own – and I must have convinced Shannon McCabe, ACF Executive Director, that I knew enough to be successful! Listening to Shannon talk about ACF and ACF members for the first time, I knew working for this organization would turn out to be the perfect fit.

The first week on the job, Shannon and I traveled to a Virginia ACF Chapter meeting held in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Forestry. I’ll never forget walking into the room and immediately feeling like I was visiting family. The entire meeting ended up feeling that way and, in that moment, I couldn’t have been more grateful for the opportunity to begin working for such a wonderful organization with such wonderful people!

I’ve learned an incredible amount about the forestry industry during the past four years (why are there so many acronyms?!) and while doing so, I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself and my professional capabilities. I’ve also focused my professional education on association management and was recently accepted into the Association Leadership Virginia program that will continue help me develop professionally by providing important tools and resources, that I hope will, in turn, help ACF members and the organization’s overall mission.

I’m beyond proud to be part of the ACF community and I enjoy reflecting on how much I’ve professionally developed over the recent years. I may not have known what a forester was four years ago when I began this journey, but I guess I’ve learned enough to have fallen in love with and made plans to marry one in October 2023, just in time to celebrate five years with ACF!


 

 

September | 2022

My ACF Experience: Connectivity and Camaraderie

Jamie Alfriend, ACF

Connectivity and camaraderie are the two words that come to my mind as I think about my experience as an ACF member. They also are the two words that I have been missing for the last two years (three years counting COVID). I wasn’t directly involved with ACF’s National Conference, and I had to miss a few Georgia Chapter meetings leaving me wanting more connection with my ACF colleagues.

Life happens. Family and professional obligations do come first. But, as my Dad (and I) say, “It’s never convenient to go to a meeting, but afterward, you’re always glad you did.” That’s so true.

We are all busy with our daily professional responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with clients relying on our sound advice and counsel. However, to be around other ACF members sharing conversations, solving challenges, commiserating about the supply chain, or wondering why stumpage prices aren’t higher, is actually quite therapeutic!

A perfect example is the ACF Business Academy that I’m currently participating in. We have completed the first two sessions and I have had one-on-one conversations with Randy Jacobszoon from California, Katie Downie from Ohio, and Joe Pfluger from Texas. I was surprised to learn that although our geographic locations differ, they are all dealing with the same challenges that I’m dealing with in Georgia!

The opportunity that we ACF members have to connect and relate with each other is a very unique one and it should be valued—maybe even more than we valued it pre-COVID. For me, meaningful conversations that connect me with my colleagues reinvigorate my passion for a career that I am thankful for every day.

In addition to my ACF Business Academy participation, I am also honored to be serving as an ACF volunteer leader this year alongside the other dedicated members of ACF’s Executive Committee (EC). I serve as ACF’s Southern Region Director—a position I’ll hold for the next three years.

I realize there is a high bar set by those I’m serving with currently, and those that served before us. All of these ACF leaders represent the very best of what ACF is about. I’m privileged to carry this torch and I view their professionalism and dedication to this organization as two ideals I hope to emulate during my time on the EC.

As I look forward to my tenure I offer you my dedication to ensure ACF members continue to share my ACF experience with opportunities for those two important words—connectivity and camaraderie.


 

August | 2022

Turning Points and Milestones

Rick Barnes, ACF

As I look back at my career, I am very thankful for the opportunities, experiences and people I have encountered. I have always worked for family-owned businesses, first as a field forester for four years then as a timber manager for 10 years. As a timber manager, I recognized the need for a forestry consultant to represent small private landowners. As a result, in 1992 I made the plunge into consulting forestry, with my wife and daughter as part of our family-owned business, serving private landowners, large and small, for over 29 years.

During my professional career, I’ve had the privilege to meet and work with many fantastic clients and colleagues. A primary key to our success has been networking. To me, the most valuable networking avenues were ACF and the Oregon Small Woodlands Association (OSWA). OSWA provided direct contact with our small woodland clients and potential clients and ACF provided opportunities in to develop relationships with professional foresters throughout the country. Many of these networking contacts became dear friends.

One turning point in my career happened at an ACF National Conference. After giving a presentation, the next speaker was the President of a company that was, at the time, a potential client. This opportunity allowed me to introduce myself and learn more about their organization. The company has since been a great client, providing us ways to expand our business with lasting benefits.

In 2020, we marked another milestone for our family business when we personally purchased 1,262 acres of timberland, becoming family forest landowners. Through the years we added more forestland and currently own 1,620 acres.

For 22 years, we have worked diligently to manage our tree farm. Since the property had only been managed for mining since 1952, we inherited nearly every kind of forest health issue imaginable. About 70 acres had been mined so reforestation was needed to complete the reclamation. Road maintenance, thinning overstocked stands, spraying noxious weeds, stand conversion and fire proofing remain annual tasks. We’ve experienced trials and successes, frustrations and joy as well as the financial realizations of owning timberland. The joys outweighed the frustrations; in fact, we enjoyed the property so much, we developed a campground by a pond we fondly call “Jenni Lake.”

The responsibility of owning timberland has been rewarding. Not only has the property provided a wonderful place for family and friends to enjoy, but it has allowed me to relate to the private landowners I served in my consulting business personally, as I was now one of them. I could provide professional forestry expertise to help them manage their timberland while possessing a deep, first-hand understanding of their challenges. I firmly believe my personal experience as a landowner made me a more effective forestry consultant.

The leadership lessons I learned while managing two family owned businesses, both as a landowner and a consulting forester, will be useful as I settle into my new role as ACF’s President-elect, yet another career milestone. I look forward to working with my fellow ACF Executive Committee, staff and membership to help lead ACF into the bright future that lays ahead.


 

July | 2022

Lucky

Dick Cooper, ACF (Ret.)

 

Special Note: Dick Cooper, ACF (Ret.) and his wife Jan Tennant attended ACF’s Western Regional Meeting in Boise, Idaho. Following interactions with students who had received scholarships from the Practicing Foresters Institute (PFI) to attend the meeting, he sent a generous donation to the PFI Scholarship Fund after the event. During the 2022 National Conference, PFI leaders presented Dick and Jan with a plaque in appreciation for their contribution. As he was unable to attend the conference, Dick provides these remarks in appreciation for the recognition in our July blog post.

I’ve been lucky. Like most older ACF foresters, I was born male and of white parents in America. I married an invaluable partner. My wife, Jan, tells everyone getting married to, “Forget the romance and gaga, you’re going into business with this person, and it will be the hardest job you will ever have.” Credit is due to her for our luck.

I was lucky to graduate from Michigan State University in 1968 with a degree in forest management, and much of my success is due to my forest economics professor, Dr. Robert Marty. In the lab portion of his five-hour class, he took each student through a scenario of being a consultant forester for a fairly large, make believe, landowner. From offering advice on purchasing various tracts, to writing management plans, and from establishing allowable cuts, to the power of compound interest–everything we do as consultants was covered. I got a 100 percent on the final.

In 1968, I was hired over the telephone by the State of Idaho with the duty station of St. Maries in the panhandle of the state, in the middle of the Western or Idaho white pine, inter mountain conifer forest. My forest fire professor was more excited than I was about going to St. Maries, as it was a big move for me and the family. It lifted my spirits when he described I’d be right in the 1910 burn and regrowth.

I packed up, headed west, and arrived in St. Maries on the 4th of July in a snowstorm. What had I got us into? I overnighted in the fire station and office parking lot and was awakened by a rapping on the window and a “What are you doing here?” When I said I was reporting for duty as a new forester, I was met with the reply, “You just made the biggest mistake of your life.” I guessed that was what every new forester was told.

While the duty station was in St. Maries, my work was about 100 miles south in the North Fork Clearwater River drainage. A five- township block of state endowment land, the North Fork of the Clearwater had escaped catastrophic stand replacement for 200 to 400 years. The virgin white pine and western larch would be limb free for 100 to 120 feet, and then would leave the 120-to-140-foot canopy of grand fir, western hemlock, western red cedar to blossom above the canopy for another 40 to 60 feet. It was magical, almost spiritual.

We were room and boarded at Boehls Cabin, a timber protective association outpost formed after the 1910 fire. Boehls cabin was nestled in an ancient grove of western red cedar trees four to ten feet in diameter that had escaped stand replacement for 3,000 to 4,000 years.

Our main job was to administer and sell 10 to 15 million board feet of timber for the “last log drive in the U.S.” down the North Fork to Lewiston, Idaho. At the time, the mill was the largest white pine sawmill in the world capable of sawing one million board feet per day, so our 10 to 15 million feet of logs was good for about two to three weeks.

My luck continued got a position with the Forest Inventory Program in Boise, Idaho in 1971. Ray Miller, my supervisor, was instrumental in my development, nudging me in the right direction. I inventoried three of the nine administrative districts in the state and set allowable cuts for the state.

Like many western states, when Idaho became a state, the federal government granted Idaho endowment trust land. The proceeds from the lease or sale of land and sale of timber goes into this endowment fund for public institutions including schools, prisons, hospitals, etc. From 1971-1976, the inventory was under my leadership. The state was cutting 220 to 250 million board feet annually and the endowments were receiving between $100 to $150 million in principle.

If I was promoted, my next assignment would have been an office job in the capital building. But I was not yet 30 and wanted to get back into the field. So, we returned to Michigan.

Our return coincided with the regrowth of the Northern Hardwood Forest, which was just coming online for the second harvest. I collected unemployment for a couple of months and made halfhearted attempts to find work until the unemployment supervisor took me aside and said, “I might have a job you might be interested in, but you don’t have to take it as your last salary was much higher.” With that, I began work with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fishery Division to sort trout out from the fall migration of salmon up the Platte River.

The Forestry Division found out I was working at the weir and initiated my transfer into forestry. At the time, one of the first consulting foresters in the nation, George Farrar, had just retired. Bernie Hubbard, the State Forester in Traverse City, wanted me to fill George’s shoes.

Before long, we were busier than I ever expected. My next step was to join ACF. I recall Harry Murphy taking me aside at my first ACF meeting and welcoming me. Through ACF, I figured out the value of my expertise and doubled our rates. Then we really got busy.

Now if that wasn’t enough luck, I found an accountant that understood our business and we set up a retirement account. As Paul Harvey would say, that’s “The rest of the story.”

I offer sincere appreciation to ACF and to forestry. I still can’t believe I got paid good money for walking in the woods and telling people about trees! I just wanted to give something back for my good luck.


June | 2022

Say Yes to Leadership

Matthew B. Gillette, ACF

 

I still remember where I was when I was asked to be ACF’s Virginia Chapter Chair. I was blindsided by the consideration. How could I be up to the challenge of leading the Chapter? I had only been a full member for a couple of years and been to only a handful of chapter meetings. I had never been in charge of anything. I wasn’t even 30 years old! How was I supposed to organize and lead Chapter meetings, represent the Chapter nationally, and be the liaison with other state organizations and government agencies? 

I did not accept the nomination immediately, but after some head-scratching, I said yes.

As Chair, I started attending ACF’s national conferences and Chapter Chair meetings. These meetings were an excellent opportunity to learn more about ACF and to connect with national ACF leaders. I befriended many of fellow Chapter Chairs, those on various committees and task forces, and ACF’s Executive Committee members. 

As I started to settle into the Chapter Chair position and think I might just be up to the task, I was asked to run for Southern Region Director. I thought surely ACF would want a member that had more experience, or was from more than just a small, family-owned business that worked in one little corner of the country. But again, after some head-scratching, I said yes to the nomination and I’m very grateful to have been elected and have served as ACF’s Southern Region Director for the past three years.

Serving as Chapter Chair and Southern Region Director have been truly rewarding experiences. These roles provided me with an inside look at a great organization. I worked alongside foresters from across the country and gained a great deal of knowledge and wisdom from some of the best consulting foresters. Some of those foresters, like me, worked in small family businesses, others were from companies that have dozens of foresters on staff, and some were from mid-sized businesses in-between.

But it wasn’t always easy. Serving as Chapter Chair and as Southern Region Director shoved me way outside of my comfort zone. Additionally, I had to commit a significant amount of time to both positions. 

Like me, I suspect very few ACF members would be comfortable in a leadership position. I also suspect that there are very few members who have time that is not already committed to work, kids, family, community organizations, etc.

Nonetheless, I hope that if you are approached about serving as an ACF leader, whether as a Chapter Chair, Executive Committee member, committee or task force member, or in any other capacity, you will accept the challenge. 

Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and donate your time. Know that when you meet the qualifications to become an ACF member, you also are more than qualified to become an ACF leader. 

I hope that young ACF members, especially, are listening to my advice. We need your leadership. 

Even if you are a sole proprietor or work for a family-owned business like me, your voice and leadership is invaluable to ACF, because there are so many members just like you. 

I am honored to have been considered a suitable candidate for these ACF leadership roles. I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have had serving in these positions. I hope that I served you all well, and I look forward to my next opportunity.

 


 

May | 2022

Motherhood and Consulting Forestry: A heavy but fulfilling load

Andrea H. Eggleton, ACF, President, Forester - FRST Corp

 

In observance of Mother’s Day in May, Shannon asked if I would contribute some thoughts to the blog regarding my new journey into motherhood from the perspective of a consulting forester. When my son was born in March 2021, I quickly realized that I needed to prioritize my time differently. I have a different perspective as a mom as to what’s important. Here’s a bit about what I’ve learned as a mom and a consulting forester. 

Shifting priorities. Some of the things I used to think were so critical in my consulting forestry business, I don’t have time for any longer. What I recognize is they were nice-to-dos, they weren’t necessarily have-to-dos. For example, I used to spend so much time on emails. Now, I realize I don’t need to revise them three times. I write them, read them over, and send them. The message gets to the recipient and that’s the important thing. 

Recognizing work is not my whole identity. I’ve been more strongly reminded that while my business is an important aspect of my life, it’s not my whole identity. My role as a consulting forester could change. I might sell my business and work for someone else someday. But being a mom is a whole new part of myself to discover and a role I that will carry for the rest of my life. 

Understanding my work is still gratifying. On the flip side, while I recognize that my business is not my full identity, being a consulting forester fills my cup. When I came back to work from maternity leave, the work, the clients, my staff, and especially getting out into the woods, brought me a lot of joy that I had lost touch with in the early postpartum days.  I appreciate my fulfilling career as a consulting forester. 

Accepting the lack of control. Having a child has taught me I’m not in control. Learning to surrender to that lack of control and being more open to the idea that I’m going to need to be flexible has made me grow. It’s also been very freeing. I’m delegating more to my staff and that provides them with an opportunity to grow and expand their skills. And an expected bonus is that my business is growing.

Creating stronger boundaries. I can’t expect myself to work 60 hours a week, participate in extra-curricular activities, plus be the mother I want to be to my 13-month-old son. I needed to develop stronger boundaries. Right now, my family needs my time, energy and attention more than anything else in my life—including work. And I also need to make enough time for things that I enjoy outside of work and mothering in order to maintain my sanity!

“Work/life balance”? Women in my generation have been told that we can have it all (a family and a career) and that we can achieve a “work life balance”. I now realize that for most women, it’s simply unachievable due to the lack of support for women, children, and families in our culture and country. However, working for myself allows me a lot more freedom than most, and I am so grateful for that. I can take on a new project or turn one down, adjusting my business goals based on how I feel I want or need to allocate my time to different aspects of my life. Being a consulting forester and owning my business gives me more opportunity to attempt to strike the right work/life balance. 

My Why. In 2012, I formed the goal of working as a consulting forester, as I realized that consulting was the best avenue within the timber industry for me to have the flexibility I wanted in order to be a forester and a mom. Since then, my husband and I have worked hard to reach the point where the business could be self-sufficient enough without me for a few months and even for a few years with reduced participation for both of us. It is incredibly challenging to carry the responsibility of our business and parenting, as so many of you also know, but I imagine that many of you can also relate to the reasons that we choose to be consultants. My son already comes to the woods with me, and I am so proud of the life that we are building for our family.

 


 

April | 2022

Spring Brings a Time of Transition and New Beginnings

Charles (Corbin) C. Crittenden, ACF

 

It’s April and Spring has finally arrived in the South. Now, I’m not one to pine for longer days and warmer temps, I’d just as soon the mosquitos and redbugs stay dormant for a few more weeks.  Anyone who’s ever spent a summer in the woods in the deep south no doubt can appreciate such a sentiment!  But Spring is a welcomed period that can be rewarding and inspiring as a time of transition and new beginnings.  

During the past several weeks, deciduous trees have made their shift from pollen-emitting allergy monsters to fully adorned. The foliage completes the forest canopy and, seemingly, breathes life into it.  New growth shoots forth from the buds of pine stems with promise of future returns for forest investors and nature-enthusiasts.  

Each day has lengthened from the previous, birds and bullfrogs have returned to declare their existence through unique melodies, and new fawns and strutting toms have started to become a regular site for those of us who spend time in the woods.

This new beginning of Spring also marks a transition for ACF’s South Carolina Chapter, as I have the pleasure of transitioning in my new role as chapter chair.  

I have been a part of ACF since 2014 when I first applied for membership and I have enjoyed being an active participant in the South Carolina Chapter--serving as Chapter Secretary for three years.  In this role, I was able to witness firsthand some of the obstacles that are faced in organizing meetings, communicating effectively with membership, and reaching consensus with a group of busy professionals with a lot on their plates. (Thanks to ACF’s national staff, Shannon and Lucy for their full-time efforts here!)  

There’s much to accomplish and perhaps “return-to” in the upcoming months.  As is the case with most chapters, South Carolina was unable to meet in person for much of the previous two years due to COVID.  

Now that a “new norm” of Zoom calls and – let’s face it – less interaction with one another has been established, getting back to in-person meetings and face-to-face networking opportunities are top priorities for me. This return to in person activities is what I’m highly interested in promoting during the next few months.  

There will no doubt be challenges that I will face during my tenure -- my inexperience as a chapter chair is at the top of the list. But I don’t want those challenges to turn into excuses as to why objectives weren’t achieved.  

Ben Franklin said he that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else; George Washington put it this way – it is better to make no excuse than to make a bad one.  One of the things that made America’s Founding Fathers such incredible leaders was that they were do-ers and not excuse-makers (They also didn’t mince words, did they?)

Midway through my second decade as a consulting forester, I’m excited for the opportunity to give back to the organization and local group of men and women that have helped me tremendously as a consulting forester.  

As Spring brings new energy, new growth, and new opportunities, that’s exactly what we’re hoping to ignite among our community of consulting forestry professionals in South Carolina.

 


 

March | 2022

Embracing Change and New Opportunities

Jason C. Raines, ACF

 

Like most 18 year-olds, I thought I had it all figured out.  I’d attend Stephen F. Austin State University, get a degree in Forest Wildlife Management, and begin a career in ecosystem-level wildlife management – think National Forest or National Park versus game ranch.  Well, as life would have it, things changed.

I went to grad school where I studied spatial science and embraced that path.  However, when a new opportunity arose, my professional course was modified once again.  

Now, I specialize in reforestation and prescribed burning.  It appears the only constant in life is change itself – a valuable lesson I’ve learned both personally and professionally.

During the last two years, we have changed how we communicate and interact with our landowners, coworkers, and colleagues.  As part of this change, many people felt driven and encouraged and to look at their lives differently.  

This includes how people viewed their interaction with the environment, and their responsibility regarding environmental impacts.  In turn, this focus on the environment has increased potential management opportunities for our clients. So in addition to traditional forestry and hunting leases, we have an opportunity to capitalize on this change.

As people realize a true need to be outdoors – for themselves and their children – non-consumptive recreational activities on private land are growing.  Carbon is a hot topic with companies such as HP, Proctor & Gamble, and Visa making commitments to be carbon neutral by 2040.  

Outside of wetlands and streams, environmental credits are becoming more popular as urban areas grow.  Consumers are monitoring how environmentally conscious a company is before buying their products, and potential investors are doing the same.  

For the first time since 2019, ACF’s National Conference will take place, in person, in June.  Our Texas Chapter looks forward to rolling out the big (everything’s bigger in Texas) welcome mat to attendees!  During the Technical Session, the chapter is excited to explore traditional and new opportunities that may expand our vision as foresters.  We’ll explore Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and Natural Capital, Carbon, and the Ashe- Juniper forests of central Texas. And don’t expect another southern pine plantation during the field tour!  A visit to a Texas Hill Country ranch and the Texas Arboretum will make this day truly unique.

I encourage everyone to join us, not only learn something new, but to enjoy some Texas BBQ, explore the areas around Austin, the capitol of Texas, and reconnect with colleagues.  We’ll see you all in June!

 


 

February | 2022

When Your Business Partner is Your Spouse

Mike Warner, with assistance from Jennifer Warner

 

My wife Jennifer, then an executive director of a small Indiana nonprofit and I were sharing our respective workday experiences over dinner about five years ago.  The conversation was filled with the frustrations of her current position—a daily two-hour commute, employee issues, board members, customers and overflowing emails. 

Not for the first time, I suggested she put her forestry degree to use by coming to work for me at ArborTerra Consulting.  

Although Jennifer had spent 12 years building this association, she felt it was time to shift focus and do something new.  I knew my business would be better off with her on board. And with that, we became business partners.  We were often met with the same response from our family, friends, and fellow consultants, “I could never do that.”  We learned early on to implement a few strategies to keep our business and marriage running smoothly.

First, we set boundaries.  Who oversees what? Who’s the boss?  Jennifer didn’t respond well to micromanagement, and I needed to get used to not always having the final say.  We learned to be open-minded to each other’s suggestions, and that the final say is linked to the person’s responsibilities.

Second, we defined our individual roles by focusing on each of our skills and strengths.  For example, as a detail-oriented person, Jennifer brings much needed organization skills. When it comes to my strengths, I am the idea and people person. I’m a 90 percenter - I get things done, but that last 10 percent of detail gets in my way.  Together we are a well-organized productive forestry consulting business that brings innovative approaches and the capacity to build long term relationship with our customers.  

Sometimes our clients drive our respective roles.  For example, we’ve found that some of our women clients were more comfortable with and relate better to a woman forester.  So, Jennifer often takes the lead when meeting with them.

Third, we build in business breaks to enjoy our personal time together.  We often pack a lunch and enjoy eating it in the woods—some may call that a picnic.  We also enjoy taking our lab (Pippin) with us into the field.  We may end our workday at Overpass Pizza enjoying a beer and some of the best pizza in Indiana – some may call that a date!

Not surprisingly, business concerns often creep into our personal time.  So we try and carve out time to keep our relationship energized.  We schedule fun activities that have nothing to do with business - gardening, travel, backpacking, dinner out, and spending family time fit the bill for us.  We plan “Sunday fun days” and travel excursions as time allows, and an extended vacation in conjunction with the ACF National Conference which we attend annually.  While it can be difficult to take this time away from the business, it is essential to enjoying life and our relationship. 

We also enjoy treating each other to something thoughtful or unexpected.  Jennifer recently surprised me with a prized bottle of bourbon to add to my collection. What she didn’t realize is that I had bought the same bourbon days before—we had a good laugh and a bourbon toast to that.

Finally, we take occasional breaks from one another.  Jennifer enjoys beach time with the girls; I enjoy a hunting or fishing trip.  It’s a great way to reboot the business and marriage energy.

Owning and operating a business with your spouse, can be one of the most rewarding challenges a couple can undertake.  We have found success being in business together by creating space for both our husband-and-wife relationship, and for our business relationship.  

We often have to pinch ourselves to remind us we’ve created a successful forestry business doing the work we have a passion for with the one we love. 

 


 

January | 2022

Getting Comfortable With Unpredictability

Nick McDougal, Forester, Southern Maine Forestry Services, Inc.

 

Looking out at a January snowstorm which is currently on the verge of turning to rain, I’m pondering the duality that exists in consulting forestry. Forestry is on a timescale that extends out beyond an individual lifespan and for consultants, we are at the mercy of short-term variations in weather, or markets, that can defy prediction and which demand constant adaptation. 

In the northeast, we don’t have to contend with some of the more dramatic weather events faced elsewhere, such as wildfires or hurricanes. Still each year, we greet the start of winter with fingers crossed, and a sense of uncertainty. We wonder whether the coming spring will be a welcome reprieve from the cold after a productive winter harvesting wood on frozen ground, or the frustrating, premature end to a season of harvesting operations delayed or halted by mud.

My first winter working in the Maine woods was a year of extended periods of subzero temperatures. These temperatures led to frozen solid ground on areas of coastal, southwestern Maine properties, where proper conditions for management operations could be infrequent. 

The rush to take advantage of these conditions led to memorable experiences trudging through powdery snow up to my waist with a paint gun, listening to a feller-buncher harvesting trees I’d marked just hours before, and forcing myself to get past my newbie’s tendency to overthink every tree selection.

In subsequent years I’ve seen good and bad winters. I’ve become accustomed to the particular rhythm that is working at a consulting forestry business. Each day in the woods involves following up on management decisions made by other foresters 15 or 20 years prior, and learning from the results to develop confidence in the long-term effects of my own decisions. 

There’s rarely a point where the work feels completely predictable. Weather doesn’t always cooperate, nor do markets for forest products. Clients change their priorities, sometimes at the last minute. Loggers become unavailable at inopportune moments, or face equipment problems that affect the scheduling of harvests.

Recently, our region has faced uncertainties in the future of markets for low-grade wood. I’d come to take for granted (as foresters in many other regions do not) the ability to lay out a harvest of primarily low-grade trees that is profitable for all parties involved. It’s disconcerting to imagine a scenario where that isn’t the case, and would certainly require adaptation in how management is approached. 

What I’ve learned from my own experiences, and those of mentors, is that the process of adaptation is the constant. I’ve waited to figure out what a “normal year” working in consulting forestry feels like, and realized that there may be no such thing, even working at a well-established consulting business with foresters who’ve been doing it longer than I’ve been alive. I’m regularly reminded in conversations with experienced foresters of change they’ve seen even in the areas that have been constant during the limited time I've been a forester.

In a field where we are striving to predict the outcomes of our decisions many decades into the future, developing a comfort level with this unpredictability can be a process. Ultimately, though, it's a rewarding one--especially in a world where life can become all too routine for many. 

I’m not sure how this winter will go. But right now, the rain is tapering off, and there are cold nights and clear skies in the forecast for the week ahead. 

 


 

December | 2021

Christmas Trees and Traditions

Lee A. Steigerwaldt, ACF, Chief Executive Officer/President, Steigerwaldt Land Services, Inc.

 

As a third generation Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producer, it’s wonderfully striking to me how relationships, nostalgia, and traditions mesh this time of the year around something as simple and authentic as a Christmas tree.

We farm and sell our own trees and have operated a retail lot in Clearwater, Florida since 1976, the year I was born. Like my dad did, I now work the lot and have multi-generational families that have bought trees for the past 45 years.  In fact for some, finding a tree at Steigerwaldt’s has become part of their family tradition. The kids that have now grown into adults and are now my age come in with their children and parents.  The nostalgia and good feelings are palpable.

What they remember are the relationships and the traditions; the personal and genuine experiences; the smell of the trees, the friendliness, cheerfulness, the genuine interest in who they are and what they do.  It’s a personal connection, a healthy dose of Midwestern nice in an urban area where nice is not necessarily a common day to day occurrence.  The simple gesture of asking, “What’s your name,” “What brings you here,” and “Is this your first real tree,” create connection and build great memories.

We see families buying their first real tree together. Couples starting new traditions. Retirees and elderly downsizing and searching for a small or table-top tree. And we see the kids get bigger every year.

We just may have a 15-minute conversation to catch up and see how they’ve been, but these conversations have taken place for the last 20+ years. It’s like seeing old friends.  Something about the consistency and tradition is truly special for all of us.

Trends in the Christmas tree industry are interesting from a connection perspective.  According to the National Association of Christmas Tree Producers, sales of Christmas trees are occurring earlier, and the average age of real tree buyers has trended younger. In 2020, the average age was 38, which is 4 years younger than the average age in 2019.  Nearly 40 percent of all real trees were purchased by urban dwellers in 2020, an 8 percent increase from 2019.   

This is not surprising to me. Trees smell good, their branches and needles are natural to the touch.  They are tangible and real--not fake and not plastic.  We put the tree up, then take out the ornaments our kids made, or the ones we made as a kids, or those someone special gave us, or the most special ones—the ones passed on to us.  Trees are beautiful lighted and decorated.

There is a familiarity, consistency, ritual and connection to the whole process of tree decorating. It’s an integral part of making memories that contribute to a special holiday season. May you all have a happy holidays celebrating with the traditions, rituals and touch points that are special to you.

 


 

November | 2021

A Meaningful Return to In-Person Events

Arthia (Billy) Rye, ACF, President, Forest Management Specialists, Inc., Florence, AL

 

As we start to return to in-person meetings, I’m so grateful for ACF’s joint Gulf/Southern Region meeting held in Huntsville, Alabama last month.  It was great to see everyone and was just the prescription our members needed.  

Regional meetings were a way for ACF members to gather in smaller numbers. Of the three regional meetings (ours, Western in Boise, Idaho, and Northern in Erie, Pennsylvania) our meeting was the only one that combined two regions. 

Several months ago, Russell Autrey, ACF’s Gulf Regional Director approached me about the possibility of hosting a joint meeting.  To ensure our chapter was on board, we conducted a chapter poll and found we had unanimous support.  

The next step was to start collaborating with Shannon McCabe and Lucy Firebaugh in ACF’s national office to develop the agenda and speakers, and handle logistics.  

One of the special activities we planned was our field tour. It was a logistical challenge because Huntsville received 12” of rain a few days before the tour.  With the slick forest roads, we might have called the tour off had it been planned for landowners, but being confident that ACF members were familiar with the risks, we proceeded. 

The UTV ride up and down the mountain was memorable as we slipped and slid our way between tour stops. We were rewarded with interesting information about mountain logging and enjoyed viewing the beautiful old growth upland hardwoods. We discussed certificates of insurance, force majeure, marketing and the current population shift, topics that generated conversations that far outlasted the tour. 

The next day’s Technical Sessions provided us with practical information on improving our businesses and our knowledge of forest resources.  I was particularly impressed with the panel discussion of representatives of university forestry programs across the Gulf and Southern Regions.  The final day’s session was on a topic that we will all need to address at some point – business succession. 

Although hosting the Regional Meeting required a great deal of work, it was well worth it. Spending in-person time with other consultants was not only educational and informative--it was therapeutic.  

As many of us are solopreneurs, we do not get a chance to talk to others who practice in our specialized profession often, another indicator of the importance of these events.  When you overcome a challenge, or discuss a current problem with a peer, there’s something positive about sharing it with someone who can truly empathize. Sometimes, you receive keen insight from someone who has faced a similar challenge; other times, you may be the voice of experience guiding a fellow forester.   Regardless of the specific conversation, it’s always rewarding, and you often learn something new.  

Networking is about connecting. With foresters, real connection may happen simply because you share your thoughts with someone who can relate.  ACF is so much more than just a professional organization, it’s a vibrant community.  I can’t wait to see everyone in Austin!

 


 

October | 2021

Life Lessons, Business and Volunteerism

Kathryn Downie, ACF, Legacy Forestry Consulting, LLC, Ohio

 

Picture this:  A young, married couple with a six-month-old infant decide to forego a reliable paycheck and go out on their own to start a commercial photography business during the beginning of a recession. Sound like a good idea? Well…

Let’s fast forward to today where I’ve taken the major life lessons we learned (each worthy of their own blog post) from said decision and applied them to my own consulting business. 
1. Say, “Yes!” and figure it out later
2. Live outside your comfort zone
3. Finding balance is baloney
4. Follow the 80-20 Rule (Pareto Principle)
5. Be cognizant David Goggins’ 40% Rule
6. The only way through tough times is to focus on tasks that move you closer to your goals

I began consulting again after my daughter was in school full-time and the photo business was running smoothly. I wanted to help landowners achieve their goals while creating healthy forests. Once again, I said, “Yes!” and was driven to figure it out. I will admit, it had been a few years and I was rusty, but I was determined to live outside my comfort zone and forge ahead. Finding “the perfect balance” between home and work is elusive, and I believe a lot of time is wasted on TALKING about it. If you follow the ideas that 20% of what you DO produces 80% of your results (Pareto Principle), you’re consistently assessing if you’ve hit your “mental wall” (David Goggins’ 40% Rule) and ensuring that the activities you’re focusing on are leading you closer to your goals, you can really achieve immense success in all areas of your life. This invariably creates more time to dedicate to other relationships, activities, and volunteer roles. Change and discipline are never easy, but if it were, everyone would be doing it, right? 

In hindsight, making that major life change was the best decision we ever made. What is scary as all get-out?! For sure. Did we learn a lot? Undoubtedly. It created an atmosphere where we were forced to grow ourselves, our marriage, and our businesses. Our mindsets changed from one where we relied on others to create opportunities for us to one where we found opportunity in every situation. It created daily habits of prioritization, execution, and implementation. We grew tremendously from that one decision. 

The truth is, we’re all one decision away from a truly different life. What are you going to do to change your path? 

 


  

September | 2021

Serving in Retirement

R.J. 'Barny' Bernard, Jr., ACF (Ret.)

 

Few consulting foresters would disagree that being a forestry consultant is one of the most rewarding professions anyone can have. So much so that many of you, my colleagues and friends, may never retire from forestry consulting. 

On the other hand, sometimes life intervenes, and we retire for one reason or another. I retired in 2008, but I’ve never stopped serving the folks of North Carolina.

As a young person, I was a Boy Scout who served the needs of other in my community in many different capacities. After graduating high school, I spent four and a half years earning my degree in forestry. 

Following college, I became a soldier and proudly served our great United States for three years. It was a privilege and honor to be a soldier and just another way to give back to my community. 

After my service ended in 1971, I pursued my love of forestry. I was able to help hundreds of landowners in North Carolina as a forester. Ten years later, I became an independent forestry consultant.

If it hasn’t been obvious up until this point, what drives me is to help others and serve my community in the best way I could. That life-long desire to serve wasn’t going to stop when I retired. 

Although it took me a year or two to find my new world of serving, I settled into becoming part of a disaster relief team. Examples of disasters that can touch one’s life and completely turn it around are tornadoes, hurricanes, windstorms, floods, landslides, earthquakes--and even pandemics.

If you are interested in investigating this path, you’ll find that most states have an organization called Baptists on Mission that provides volunteers to help those affected during a disaster. If this organization doesn’t exist in your state, there are other groups that provide a way for volunteers to join disaster relief teams. The best part is that you don’t even need to be retired, since serving on a disaster team is not a full-time commitment.

To be able to help people that have suffered the loss of their home or their life’s accumulation of stuff, is greatly rewarding to me. Working with a faith-based organization also allows me to share my thoughts about God and faith with the survivors of the disaster. 

I have always considered forestry consultants as a servant to those that employ our service. We get paid for what we love to do. The feeling I get on the disaster relief team is similar. I love to help people that need help--this time with no financial compensation. There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction in doing this work. 

I would encourage each and every one of you that have retired or are considering what you might do after you retire, to consider the various ways that you can continue to serve people. The neat thing about being a forester is that you are qualified to join a disaster relief team.  I hope my thoughts here will encourage you to take some time and think about it!

 


 

August | 2021

When There's Smoke, There's Fire

Mike Wolcott, ACF, CF, Inland Forest Management, Inc., Sandpoint, Idaho

 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Today is a good day. I can look out my window and clearly see the mountains three miles away. Last week, a curtain of smoke shrouded everything within a mile. My California ACF colleagues tell me they have many days with quarter-mile visibility.

Thursday, August 12, 2021
Today is a bad day.  Smoke enveloped our town overnight and we now live within a hazy veil – maybe one-half mile visibility.  The air lays heavy with the smell of burning wood.  

At pickleball early this morning, one of the players wore a respirator mask, Star Wars style. She’s probably the smart one.  My town, Sandpoint (Idaho), is known for its lake, beauty and outdoor recreation. That’s a hard sell these days.

These unpredictable wildfires keep everyone on edge – clients, foresters, government agency folks, and loggers. In addition to the life and property risks, the fires have an economic impact. For example, logging in eastern Washington is curtailed and Idaho requires logging equipment to shut down at 1:00 p.m., followed by a three-hour fire patrol. It goes without saying, there aren’t a lot of logs moving.

Our region was once known as the “wild west,” now it’s the “wildfire west.” It seems as if these forest fires dominate the lives of many consulting foresters in our region – including myself and my colleagues.

In the wildfire west, we spend so much time minimizing hazardous fuels, having long fire-risk discussions with concerned landowners, salvaging burned timber, navigating through the fire-bureaucracy maze, and more.  These and other related activities are not only incredibly time consuming but emotionally draining.

Some consulting forestry firms, such as ours, are directly involved in wildfire suppression efforts. We, for example, have several engines assigned to fires throughout the northwest. John Ailport, our wildfire engine guru, just informed me we’ve already spent 50 days so far this year on fires – and it’s only August 12th!  We’ve never spent this many days containing wildfires this early in the season. 

Complicating things even more is the fact that wildfire suppression personnel are at a premium.  As you can imagine, it’s tough to find people interested in fighting fires - especially in 100-degree weather. The wildfire situation has really put us under the gun. 

We’re trying to balance meeting project deadlines, coordinating fire suppression efforts, ensuring everyone’s safety, and handling equipment challenges.  To be frank, we are scrambling. However, I know we’ll get through it – we always have.  Although, I must admit, I can’t wait to see snow in the forecast!

 


 

July | 2021

Reasoning with Hurricane Season

Russell D. Autrey, ACF

 

As I write this on a calm morning in July, I see the land around our Gulf coast town bearing the signs of last year’s active hurricane season: mended fences, openings where mature trees once stood, and a few blue roof tarps.  

While I love living in this beautiful coastal environment, there is a price to pay—hurricanes are an inevitable part of life along the Gulf Coast. Therefore, good hurricane preparation is essential.  

So I’m dusting off my well-worn Hurricane Preparation Plan and reflecting on my lessons learned.  For most folks, hurricane preparation includes activities such as stocking the shelves, gassing up the generator and the car, and so on.  

But for a consulting forester in a hurricane-prone area, preparation is more comprehensive. We need to consider how to ensure our business will survive, and how to protect our clients’ assets.  When a big storm is imminent, the preparation checklist may include: 
•Review the plan
•Back-up the files
•Communicate with clients
•Stage equipment
•Secure the office
•Discuss the impending timber salvage with producers
•Follow the meteorologists’ play-by-play.  

When the wind and rain subside, my first thought is for the safety of family, friends, co-workers and clients. Once I know everyone is OK, what follows is a marathon of salvage and recovery--beginning with extended power, water, internet and cell signal outages.  Storm recovery requires patience and stamina.  

In fact, timber salvage efforts can last more than a year, and consume enormous amounts of time and energy. For a consulting forester, it requires taking step-by-step actions, and assuring our colleagues and clients we’ll get through this.  

While the physical work of debris clearing and salvage harvesting remain incredibly demanding, project management and analytics have become more efficient due to technology.  Today, regardless of connectivity, powerful mobile electronics and custom GIS software put forest attributes and records at our fingertips.  

Drones, LiDAR, and other remote sensing advancements have replaced the days of inspecting storm damage while fighting motion sickness in a small plane, with a stack of laminated maps and a wax pencil.  

I found that disaster recovery brings out the best in people. I’ve seen neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers—all unselfishly contributing to the community recovery effort.  

I experienced this first-hand when we lost a remote office to Hurricane Laura in 2020.  When we got to the site, we found our neighbors had already started clean-up, even though I’m sure they had their own hurricane-related challenges at home.  

Although we were relegated to camping in tents in the 90-degree south Louisiana heat, our crew’s spirits remained high. Everyone pulled together to implement an effective timber salvage operation.  

Lynn Wilson once described ACF members as the most resourceful problem solvers.  In many ways, this resourcefulness is a job requirement.  The natural ability to adapt to unexpected situations and weather storms, both literal and figurative, is a character trait that many ACF members possess. 

We see this resourcefulness demonstrated not only by consulting foresters’ ability to meet the challenges caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters, but also to find creative solutions to the unprecedented COVID-19 challenges. 

Storms and pandemics may come and go, but it’s encouraging to know that with determination, perseverance and creative ingenuity, consulting foresters can find ways to meet any challenge.

 


 

June | 2021

The Wandering Forester: The Journey Begins

Daniel R. Wilson, ACF

 

As I write this in March of 2021, I find myself at a turning point in my forestry career. For the last nearly nine years, I have been working as a Consulting Forester in eastern Virginia, a job I have found to be satisfying, fun and rewarding. While there are no internal forces pushing me away, my wife and I are in the process of selling our house and will soon be hitting the road in a two hundred square foot travel trailer. For the next several months, we’ll be traveling across the country exploring new places, meeting new people, and learning as much as possible. Eventually, we intend to settle outside of the southeast, and I have no intention of leaving the Forestry profession. 

The decision to leave the only state either of us have ever called home, with no certain prospects for future employment, could certainly be considered rash and risky.  When I was offered an attractive, full-time position close to home early in my career, I jumped at the opportunity, and have no regrets doing so.  I have learned a tremendous amount about forestry in Virginia and consulting while growing and maturing as a person. Until about six months ago, I thought I had the rest of my career planned out. I genuinely enjoyed what I was doing, felt like I was reasonably good at it, and was positioned to eventually take over the consulting firm at which I worked.  After a series of western trips and learning of an interesting employment opportunity on the west coast, though, we became intrigued by the idea of considering a move.  As our excitement grew it turned out the job opportunity did not pan out on the expected timeline, but we’d already made our decision: one way or another, we were going to make a major transition.

The last six months have been spent finishing some long overdue projects on our house, selling said house, researching and procuring a travel trailer and tow vehicle, moving a surprisingly significant accumulation of possessions into storage, and making other arrangements to prepare for a Spring 2021 departure. 

One thing I know about myself is I do not do well with extended periods of downtime. Without goals to work towards and a sense of productivity, boredom and inactivity bring out bad habits and frustration. For the sake of my sanity, and marriage, I needed a plan to stay busy, active, and interested. We have investigated a few volunteer opportunities with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, but for me, something related to forestry seemed ideal. Through the Association of Consulting Foresters (ACF) and other professional organizations, I have made some contacts in the profession beyond Virginia. A good working relationship and friendship with ACF’s Executive Director, Shannon McCabe, was also available to leverage. 

One of my goals as we travel over the next several months is to find small ACF firms across the country who will, in exchange for labor and company, take me in for about a week and show me what they do. I reached out to Shannon and asked if she thought my idea was sound: Were there firms out there that would be interested in opening their doors to an utter stranger with nothing more than a loose affiliation through ACF? Shannon’s response was better and more supportive that I could have expected. Beyond assuring me that I had not fully lost my sanity, she offered to help me locate potentially suitable firms and serve as a reference to assure them this was not some sort of anti-competitive conspiracy. 

In addition, Shannon floated the idea of my writing about these encounters for possible publication in some form or another. Why not? At worst, writing short articles would help keep me busy and provide a record for personal reflection. At best, ACF will decide to disseminate them and perhaps they will provide some inspiration or at least entertainment for readers.  I look forward to sharing the journey with you!

Editor’s Note: We look forward to sharing the journey of The Wandering Forester in our first ever ACF Mini-Series over the coming weeks.  Stay tuned!

 


 

May | 2021

Pottery: More Than A Hobby

Eli C. Jensen

 

As a business owner, you never really get “time off.”  If you’re not working on the business, you’re thinking about the business.  From that viewpoint, my hobby, pottery, is a form of off season training.  Just as climbing, hiking, running, cycling, and weightlifting is a physical workout, pottery is mental fitness. It’s relaxing, easy, and if I mess up I throw the piece back to the earth.  Simply put, it’s playing with mud.  It was fun as a kid, and it’s fun as an adult.  

When I get into my pottery zone, I focus on new designs. Ironically, I use the same process for creating new designs as solving forestry challenges.  Here is how it looks:

  • Set a goal: design a mug with a leaf impression.
  • Take inventory of current resources and abilities: clay, pottery wheel, tools, leaves. 
  • Identify and address any knowledge or skill gaps 
         - How can I apply the leaf in a way that is neat and crisp?
         - How do I apply the coloring?
         - How do I apply glaze to the background but not the impression?
  • Plan the order of operations needed  
         - Throw the mug on the wheel
         - Dry mug and trim bottom
         - Shape, dry and attach handle
         - Spray mug with color and impress leaves with roller
         - Spray glaze
         - Remove leaves
         - Dry mug, fire and glaze
  • Implement and fail: leaves don’t stick to the clay when I roll them on
  • Learn and repeat: clay is too dry, spritz with water; spritz leaf with water
  • Implement and fail: pattern is muddled
  • Learn and repeat: apply finer mist
  • Implement and fail: glaze gets under leaf
  • Learn and repeat: sprayer blows too hard and pulls leaf up, spray from farther away, leaf edges come loose, make sure they’re rolled on properly
  • Success!

In forestry, when laying out timber sales on public land as I do often as an Arizona-based consultant, it’s common to require a directional mark that minimizes the visual impact and can’t be seen by the public.  Unfortunately, loggers also may not see the paint resulting in the wrong trees cut.  Here’s how I’ve applied that same process above to my work: 

  • Set goal: find a way to aid loggers in identifying trees for harvest in a directional mark.
  • Take inventory: paint sprayers, tree marking paint, digital field apps
  • Identify and address any knowledge or skill gaps:  
         - How can we use digital mapping to aid the loggers?
         - How can we use paint or chalk in a cost and time effective way?
         - How can we mark the second side of trees in a way that does not impact visual aesthetics, and in a way that satisfies the USFS?
  • Plan the process
         - Designate a single technician to mark an area
         - Digitally document trees marked or area marked
         - Create a polygon around trees in the directional mark
         - Share polygon with loggers
  • Implement and fail: loggers are aware they are in a directional mark and make fewer errors, but may still struggle to identify marked trees.
  • Learn and repeat: loggers still need aid in identifying directionally marked trees.  We need a way to mark them temporarily.
         - Plan the process
         - Formulate a rain washable “paint” using calcium carbonate (chalk)
         - Adjust formulation for visibility, cost, and compatibility with sprayers
         - Apply the formulation to the trees in the directional mark right before harvest (preferably not during monsoon season).  
  • Implement and fail: formulation is too watery when thinned enough to be sprayed properly
  • Learn and repeat: add less water and add a deflocculant 
  • Implement and fail: formulation settles too quickly, clogs sprayer
  • Learn and repeat: add EPK kaolin to the formulation to form a slurry 
  • Implement and fail: the USFS is upset that the formulation is bright white, which the USFS uses to designate archeological sites
  • Learn and repeat: add oxides or dyes to color the formulation
  • Success!

My example above also speaks to the usefulness of synergizing skillsets.  I may not have known much about deflocculation as a forester, but I sure did as a potter!  Exploring other skillsets is a great way to gain knowledge and skills that can help in your consulting forestry business. Think about it as cross-training! 

 


 

April | 2021

The Beginnings of a Forest Archeologist

Matthew E. Dowdy, ACF

 

You’re cruising a tract of timber when you encounter an old home site, something every forester loves. When this happens to me, I immediately start to date the period the site was occupied.  My clues begin by aging the trees that have grown since the site was abandoned.  Are 100-year old poplars growing inside the living room?  Are portions of the structure still standing?  Or only the chimney?  What items do you see in old trash piles?  

About 20 years ago, I stumbled upon an old log cabin in Goochland County, Virginia.  The trees surrounding the site appeared to be pre-Civil War white oaks with large trunks and spreading limbs.  They were much older than the mature 100-year-old hardwoods that I was cruising for sale.  With the landowner’s permission, I rummaged through the cabin and found a 1944 Department of Forestry bookmark featuring a caricature of a man and the words:  “Prevent Forest Fires….Greater Danger than Ever!”

I was hooked and from that point on, began seeking out anything to do with forestry history.  I had been collecting old boundary line signs found while cruising and this was just the next step. (Well, that’s what I tell my wife at least.)

I’m lucky to have found quite a bit of forest history including Forest Service bookmarks from the 1920s, posters predating Smokey Bear, and even a Mickey Mouse Log Company Truck. I consider myself a budding forest archeologist!

Recently, I added a remarkable collection of original newsletters called The Biltmorean. The Biltmore Forest School closed its doors in 1913 and this newsletter was published in 1914 to connect former students across the U.S. 

In the second issue of The Biltmorean, I found an article titled, The Forest Engineer. It grabbed my interest because it’s the earlies record I’ve found of a forestry consultant. 

Several passages of the article are as relevant today as they were in 1914.  It contained advice such as work hard for your client, be competent and responsible in your work, what is worth doing is worth doing right, listen often and speak little, keep your employers interest confidential, and learn from those with more experience.

The article also included an outline for a report that might just be the first template for a forest management plan.  

A section titled “How can I get in touch with parties interested in timber?” contained advice on securing clients – it’s a question that still puzzles some of us today.

But perhaps the best part of the article contained hints of one of ACF’s primary canons. “When employed by others keep yourself free from the temptation of being a party to a sale.  Ours is one of the professions in which honesty is at a premium, and in which it will pay best in the long run to ‘avoid the appearance of evil.’” 

Doesn’t that sound familiar?  For ACF, the values instilled in consulting foresters in 1914 are just as relevant today. 

 


 

March | 2021

It’s All Relative: Bring Your Family to the Next ACF Conference

Nathan S. Kachnavage, ACF

 

My love of travel began when I was young and continues today. Spending time outdoors, meeting people, learning new things, and trying different cuisines, are all part of the draw.  I found a combination of these things at ACF National Conferences. While we await a return to in-person meetings, I thought I’d share some of my past ACF in-person conference experiences.      

When I attended my first ACF conference in Mobile, Alabama in 2016,  I wasn’t used to the local cuisine and wound up eating shrimp whole -- popping them back like the pre-battered shrimp you get at the grocery store. I also toured a few sites such as the U.S.S. Alabama. 

But the most impactful takeaway wasn’t the local cuisine or sites, it was the welcoming and knowledgeable ACF consultants from across the country. These consulting foresters provided answers to my questions and shared stories with me, even though I was not yet an ACF member.  

It’s that professionalism and comradery I took away from Mobile that convinced me to join ACF. That bond has continued and grown since then. 

When I attended ACF’s 2017 conference in Lake Tahoe, I brought my family. It was my daughter’s first plane trip and she said, “I can see the whole world from up here, Daddy!”  To this day, it’s her second favorite place (Disney World is first). In addition to connecting with ACF members and learning from the wide variety of educational sessions, we had a snowball fight, enjoyed beautiful sunsets over the lake, went rock climbing, took a scenic cruise, and visited the Virginia City silver mines.  

I brought my family along for ACF’s 2018 conference in Asheville, North Carolina.  The highlight of the trip was by far the Biltmore Estate followed by our patio view of the Smokey Mountains. We enjoyed that view with fellow forestry colleagues laughing and swapping stories into the night. 

I was proud to be part of the 2019 ACF conference in French Lick, Indiana (hosted by my own chapter) which was less than an hour from my house and in my consulting forestry service area.  Since my family wasn’t with me, I focused on getting to know my chapter members and others. 

Although we’ll have to wait a little while longer, I encourage my fellow ACF members to consider attending the next ACF conference.  You won’t regret it.  In addition to the valuable ACF learning sessions, be sure to take time to see the local sites, try the cuisine, meet some new people, and see what forestry is like in a different part of the country.  

I look forward to the day when we can enjoy our in-person time together again. 

 


 

February | 2021

Befriend a Forester! (especially this year)

Wayne S. Pfluger, ACF

 

In every industry professionals have their stories. Foresters are no exception and in fact we may be near the top in storytelling. 

As a forester, and an ACF member, I have missed seeing all of you in a big way. I love to hear your stories,  listen to your wisdom, and learn about your adventures. 

2020 reminded me about one of my favorite stories. It’s a story that has surfaced time and time again. 
 
Close to 20 years ago, I met with a “new” client. She was not truly new, since I had worked with her father before his passing for many years. 

When we initially met, the first thing she said was, “Dad told me that before doing ANYTHING with this property, meet with our forester.”

My first thought was “Wow!” Then I immediately went to, “Oh my; Wayne, you best not disappoint this lady.” But ultimately, I settled on this reassuring thought, “She gets it!  She understands. We’re going to work well together!”
 
During the years that followed, I’ve told that story to many clients and acquaintances. My point is that everyone should befriend a forester. 

Now, I’m a forester so I may be a bit biased. But in my experience, foresters are generally honest. They are visionaries with a long-term view. They are able to see the big picture and they understand how each piece of the puzzle fits together.

Additionally, your new forester friend, might just be one of the most profound optimists you’ll ever meet. For goodness sake--WE PLANT TREES! And we do so even though, in many instances, we will not get to see those trees fulfill their intended purpose.   

Our hopes and dreams are that these seedlings will not just survive but will grow into something that contributes positively to society. Maybe that tree becomes a wood product, or a unit of carbon storage, or it just provides shade on a sunny day. 
 
A forester’s commitment to seeing trees planted not only illustrates our optimism, but it also shows our patience, calm nature, and ability to see what the future holds. 

As a result, most foresters don’t get overly excited about much--even when there’s a crisis. If a wildfire, wind event, hurricane, ice storm or other natural disaster happens, most foresters are already a step ahead looking at the long-term effects and seeking resolutions. 
 
So, after the chaotic and uncertain year that was 2020, if you want a breath of fresh air and to surround yourself with calm and optimism; my advice -- befriend a forester. Whether you own trees or not, hike the woods or walk the sidewalks, befriending a forester might just be the best thing you do for yourself in 2021!

 


 

January | 2021

My Outdoor Hockey Rink and ACF

Justin M. Miller, ACF

 

As old man winter has slowly taken a grip on Upper Michigan, I am reminded of short days, sub-zero temps, and blowing snow.  Perfect conditions for outdoor hockey!  

During the past few years, it has been my personal goal to have our ice rink ready for skating on New Year’s Eve.  This year, I was a bit over-confident in achieving this goal with forecasted temps in the single digits in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve.  

While temperatures delivered the freezing conditions we needed, we also received considerable snowfall.  If you work and play in “snow country,” you know that freezing water and snow don’t mix well.  Snow turns to slush on the freezing water, resulting in soft ice and a rough surface--neither of which are conducive to a good sheet of ice.  

With only two days before our intended “first skate” and about 8” of snow on top of 2” of ice, the situation was not looking good.  Thankfully, my kids weigh less than I do and their lighter weight enabled them to safely shovel the snow and slush off of the rink. We even had time to spare to apply a few coats of water to groom the rink resulting in a nice, smooth surface.  

Now, a week later, the rink has logged dozens of hours of use by our family and friends.  As we were pulling an eight-hour shift of skating last weekend, I recognized the simplicity of playing on frozen water amongst the trees, snow and wind. And how the essence of ice hockey builds on some of the most crucial yet basic fundamentals of life; teamwork and tenacity, along with some good, clean fun sprinkled in.  Oh yeah, one more important lesson: you can’t improve without taking your fair share of falls.

In reflecting back on 2020, and looking forward to 2021, I realized my recent outdoor hockey experience parallels thoughts related to ACF, our members and my consulting practice.  Like the unpredicted heavy snowfall on our ice rink at an inopportune time, 2020 brought unwelcomed adversity unlike anything  our association and many members had previously experienced. We faced the inability to travel and gather, timber market uncertainties, wood flow shortcomings, you name it……

In 2021, we need to get up from the ice, brush off the snow, and through teamwork and tenacity, apply what we have learned yielding strength, efficiency and confidence.  The hard times we experienced in 2020 have made us better prepared for the future than ever before!