Vocational 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.
All 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
"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
Vocational forest workers might clear brush, trim trees, mark logs, stack
pulpwood logs and do numerous other site-specific tasks.
In 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.
Once 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.
Logging companies, contractors, forestry management companies, government
departments, pulp and paper manufacturers and wood manufacturers employ the
majority of these workers.
"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.
The 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."
Forestry 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
Some forestry workers stay in camps at the logging site, but many spend
long hours commuting from home to work each day.
This 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.
The 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