Forests are among the world’s most important resources. They cleanse the air, contribute vitally to water quality, protect the soil, provide habitats for wildlife, provide renewable raw materials for energy, shelter, and paper products, and offer recreational opportunities that enhance the quality of human life. Forests cover 21 percent of the earth’s land surface, about one-third of the land in the United States, 90 percent of New England, and 89 percent of Maine–the most heavily forested state in the country.
Forestry is an applied science that involves managing forest ecosystems within increasingly complex social environments. A challenging, demanding profession, forestry applies Forest Ecosystem Science and Conservation, management sciences, and communications skills to the conservation and management of forest resources to meet society’s ever increasing needs for commodities, services, and a healthy environment.
Foresters are professional men and women who understand the many different aspects of managing natural and human elements of forest systems. Forestry requires a broad education. Biological and physical sciences provide the basis for evaluating the complex interactions of forest ecosystems. Social sciences provide understanding of how humans value forest conditions and forest-based products and services. Management sciences help foresters to match human needs and desires with the sustainable capabilities of forests.
The Forestry Curriculum
The four-year curriculum, accredited by the Society of American Foresters, requires completion of 120 credits of coursework. In addition to the University’s general education requirements in science, human values, communications, and mathematics, the curriculum includes forest-oriented courses in biology, soil science, measurements, mapping, inventory, protection, ecology, tree culture, economics, policy, and administration. These are combined into an integrated approach to the management of forests for desired, sustainable conditions that respond to society’s demands for a healthy forest environment, wood-based products, wildlife habitats, recreational opportunities, and water resources.
Employment in Forestry
The University of Maine’s Forestry program provides a very broad education. Foresters are employed in a wide range of positions, but most work with some aspect of forest resources management.
Federal agencies (such as the United States Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service) manage 20 percent of the timberland in the United States. State natural resources agencies, which manage seven percent, hire foresters to manage state forest lands and to provide advice to owners of small woodland properties. Forest industries, which own 13 percent of the timberland, are major employers (especially in Maine, which ranks third in the U.S. in industrial forest acreage than any other state). An increasing number of forestry graduates become independent consultants, serving mostly nonindustrial private forestland owners, such as the thousands who own about half of Maine’s timberland. Fifty-eight percent of all of the timberland in the U.S. is in such ownership. As the people of Maine, the United States, and the world increase their demands on forests, the need for foresters will continue.