How To Pick The Right Forester


You have purchased the land and now its time to begin thinking about managing it. You have goals about creating habitat for wildlife, generating income from the timber and creating a system of trails for better access. You have heard that it’s smart to hire a forester to help you with the management of your land. So hiring a licensed reputable forestry firm -to help you – sounds easy…..until you begin the search process. Suddenly it seems overwhelming.

You begin to realize that not all types of licensed foresters are equal? Objectives, skill sets and interests vary widely. Many of the differences are based upon the type of agency or firm that the forester is employed by. Don’t despair – we have created a quick summary of what types of licensed foresters are out there and which type is the best fit for a landowner looking to manage their lands responsibly over the years ahead.

In the interest of making this simple we will break the forestry profession into the four most common categories that licensed foresters fit into. The majority of foresters, you encounter, fit into one of these categories.

State/Federal Forester

These types of foresters are public employees who are employed by various government agencies.

State foresters are employed by the state in which your land is located. Depending on the state, they may or may not assist with the management of your land. Here in the New England area, the states of Vermont and New Hampshire don’t allow foresters, employed by the state, to assist with the management of private lands. They are allowed to give suggestions and they are also allowed to give you a list of private consulting foresters, in your area, for you to contact.

On the other hand states like New York do allow their state foresters to provide “free” forestry services to public landowners. However, we all know what kind of service you get when its “free” ..especially when its provided by the government. My own personal observation is that the forestry services provided “free” by the state aren’t very good. You are better off paying a private consulting forester who has a financial incentive to provide you with outstanding service versus using the services of a bureaucrat who is just waiting out the days until retirement.

Procurement Forester

Generally speaking, a procurement forester works for either a wood manufacturing facility (sawmill/ pulp mill), logging company or log export business. In nearly all cases, the services of a procurement forester are FREE.

Fully licensed, with years of experience most procurement foresters are very capable and talented foresters. Also, many will insure that the work done in the woods, by the loggers working under them (mill) or who they work for (logging company employee), meets high standards of workmanship. Most procurement foresters will also insure that you are fully paid for all of the wood harvested from your land.

All that said, a procurement forester doesn’t represent your interests ! A procurement forester is expected to procure timber as much timber to harvest as cheaply as possible. Failing in that mission – they will not remain in that job for very long. Some will manage your lands with a long term outlook in mind – but that is not their main mission. Almost none will insure that you receive the best prices possible for your harvested wood. To put it bluntly – there is absolutely no incentive at all for them to do that. In fact the incentive is there to do the exact opposite. As with all services that are FREE – there is a hidden cost. In this case the cost is lower prices for your wood with no incentive to manage your forest for the long term.

NGO / Non-Profit

If your property has a conservation easement on it, your first contact with a forester will be the one who is employed by the land trust holding the easement. Generally, they will not actively assist with the management of your land but will instead give you suggestions and provide a list of consulting foresters they recommend. Twenty years of experience has taught me that the type of consulting forester who most land trusts recommend tend to be those who are politically connected and/or give a lot of donations to the non-profit. In light of that consider doing your own research and not just settle for those who are on the preferred list. Its your land after all and you are paying for the service. You might as well choose the best not the most politically connected.

Private Consulting Forester

A private consulting forester works for you! Their business involves providing knowledgeable service, unbiased expertise and advice to forest landowners. When it comes to creating a long - term management plan for your property - they will have the knowledge and incentive to deliver. During the timber sale process they will act as a liaison between you and the timber purchaser – insuring your interests are protected.

A good consulting forestry firm will be their to provide you with top notch service throughout time of your ownership. Studies have shown the benefits of hiring a consulting forestry firm to manage your land - far outweigh the costs.


As you can see – there are many types of foresters who fit under the umbrella of “licensed forester”. The differences are varied and not all will fit the bill of what you need as a forest landowner. However, by choosing a private consulting forester you will be well on the road to insuring that your forest is managed with your best interests in mind. If you would like to learn more about how to properly choose a consulting forester contact us and request a FREE copy of “ A Simple Guide To Hiring A Forester”
We will gladly send this to you. Here at Stillwater Forestry LLC we love to see landowners become well informed, stewards of their land.

If you are looking for a forest resource and wildlife management professional then please call 1-800-237-9253 or complete our online request form.