Why we need foresters
Australia has 147 million hectares of native forests. Some 103 million hectares of closed and open forest is either privately owned or leasehold while the balance is multiple use forest (9.4 million hectares), conservation reserves (23 million hectares) or other categories of public ownership (12 million hectares) (ABARES 2012).
In addition, there are about 2 million hectares of plantations, mostly introduced softwoods. The bulk of the plantations in the past have been owned by State Governments, but there is an increasing trend towards private ownership of plantations and also toward share farming systems of plantation establishment on farmland. These forests and plantations require protection from and the management of the effect of wildfires and other damaging agents such as insects and diseases. They also require planning and management to provide a wide range of goods and services for the community, such as pure water, recreation, timber products, nature conservation, honey, wildflowers and so on. Planning and management increasingly involve community participation at various stages of these processes, so foresters need to be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of people and groups in the community.
It is the task of trained foresters to protect and manage these forests and plantations for the community or for private companies or investors. In recent years foresters have also been increasingly involved in assisting farmers reverse land degradation by establishment of plantations on farmland, or by using agroforestry techniques to reduce soil erosion or land and stream salinity. In this way, forestry is contributing to the development of more sustainable agricultural land management systems.
Australia imports about one-third of its forest products - $3.5 billion worth (ABARE 2012). Much of this could be grown in Australia so there is great scope for increased forestation of farms with commercial tree plantations.
All forests must be actively managed if they are to provide the services required by the owners and if they are to be sustainable in the long term. Foresters are employed by State national park agencies and forest services, government departments, as well as by private companies who own extensive plantations. Some foresters also work independently as consultants.