Old Foresters Never Die . . . They Just Pine Away

Rick, forest sector worker standing next to alive tree

I’ve always chuckled at that “old foresters . . .” saying, but now I am one of those old foresters and will be retiring from FRA at the end of this month. I have been blessed to work with outstanding FRA members and staff for over 27 years in three geographic regions while discovering and sharing many good ideas from our members. (After all, an association is supposed to serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas, helping all the members help themselves.) Here are a few observations I leave with you on my way out:

Field forestry is one of the greatest jobs in the world. A career that starts out with opportunities to work in both land management and wood procurement while working directly with loggers and forest landowners—many of whom are The Salt of the Earth—provides a great background for every future job a person will ever have in the forest industry.

It’s good to have both younger and older employees in a company. The young bring new skills, new ideas, and a drive to help the business take risks and succeed. The old-timers have a wealth of knowledge and experience that makes them good judges of human behavior and wise decision-makers.

Beware of the “amazon.com” mentality. For example, it can be harmful for the wood supply chain to regard the relationship between suppliers and consumers as merely a business transaction the way we would buy merchandise on Amazon. Face-to-face visits and phone calls bring a lot more benefits than some folks realize when compared with e-mails and texts. Loggers often bend over backward to help out a mill in need when they know the company and the procurement staff care about them, communicate well with them, and want them to succeed. These relationship-building principles hold between any links in the wood supply chain.

The best part of my job has been the face-to-face field visits with members. I heard and learned so much more riding with someone in their vehicle and spending time with them at their office and out in the woods than I could ever learn simply by phone or by e-mail. And sometimes, during these visits, I discovered how to help them or their company on an issue, problem, or educational need they were concerned with. Our field visits and meetings keep FRA staff grounded in reality and help us to focus our efforts on the issues most important to the members. Your personal visits with business colleagues and customers will bring you the same benefit. (Thanks for your hospitality during my visits, and please continue to encourage visits from FRA staff and support your employees’ participation in FRA.)

Is “sustainable forestry” a redundant expression? Isn’t forestry by definition sustainable?

Trees are The Miracle Resource. God designed and created these amazing, beautiful plants to sustain the natural world while we use them to benefit society in so many ways. I am grateful for a career made possible because of this miracle resource, and I thank you all for your support and friendship over the years.

Yours treely,