Incentives for State Service Foresters

Karl Davies karl at
Tue Feb 29 15:23:43 EST 2000

A Proposal to Create Incentives to Succeed for State Service Foresters

First, it must be recognized that all state service foresters have one
HUGE disincentive in fulfilling their mission of improving forestry
practices in the United States.  That disincentive lies in the fact that
if they ever were to really succeed in this mission, they would be out
of their jobs--because at that point there would be no need for service

Therefore, the only real incentive that they have is to make
insignificant, marginal improvements so that there is the appearance of
improvement, but not the reality of improvement.  Another incentive of
course is to improve their pay and benefits through career advancement,
which comes with success in responding to the first incentive.

In order to truly improve the practice of forestry in the United States,
service foresters must find ways of working themselves out of their
jobs.  They must find ways of 1) setting STANDARDS for forestry
practices, 2) establishing procedures for accountability in meeting
those standards, and then 3) turning control over these practices and
procedures to one or more of the following groups: landowners, loggers
and mill owners, conservation groups, and practicing foresters.

Seventy years ago there might have been some hope of educating
landowners about good forestry practices because most were still farmers
who still had much practical knowledge about working in the woods.  Many
had some theoretical forestry knowledge from reading and observation.
Now of course, most owners are ABSENTEE and don't have the slightest
idea about working in the woods; nor do they have any theoretical

Loggers have much practical knowledge, but many have serious CONFLICTS
OF INTEREST when it comes to emphasizing long term forestry goals over
short term goals.  Many also have conflicts regarding accurately
tallying timber and paying fair prices for it.

Most conservation groups are similar to the absentee landowners.  While
they may be well-motivated and may have some theoretical knowledge,
their practical knowledge of forestry principles and practices is
usually lacking.  Some may have primary interests other than the
improvement of forestry practices, such as preservation.

Practicing foresters, on the other hand, have much practical knowledge
as well as much education and training, and they have no serious
conflicts of interest.  Most understand the needs of landowners, loggers
and conservationists--and they are FORESTERS.  It really should be a
no-brainer to set up some forestry standards and accountability
procedures and then turn over control to these practicing foresters.

Given the realities of the situation, it would seem a simple matter to
make this choice and then go about implementing it.  An obvious first
step would be to define some FLEXIBLE standards acceptable to all.  An
obvious second step would be to establish a forester licensing board and
procedures, and to make licensing renewals conditional upon adherence to
the standards.

Such a program should be phased in over several years, and there should
be a review process to make adjustments where necessary.  Of course the
role of service foresters would not be totally eliminated because there
would still be need for a few of them to administer cost-sharing
programs and handle the paper work associated with use-value assessment
plans and cutting/harvest plans (in states where these exist).

Service foresters should be rewarded for success in this endeavor with
jobs working as management foresters on state lands.  There should be
generous compensation for these jobs, perhaps as much as 35% of the
gross proceeds from timber sales and other fees from state
lands--providing they can work themselves out of their service forester
jobs quickly.  The longer it takes, the less they should get.

Karl Davies, Practicing Forester

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