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Educating foresters


Dean, College of Forestry, State University of New York, Syracuse, N.Y., U.S.A.

THE profession of forestry seeks to aid man in living successfully with forests and manipulating them so as to obtain the maximum of human satisfaction in terms of products, services, and inspiration. Forest land makes up about 30 percent of the world's land area, hence this is no modest goal. As population grows, man increases his pressure on land resources, thereby making the achievement of this goal progressively more difficult and at the same time more necessary.

Demands on the forest can rarely be ignored or diverted while the forest is being improved. The forester must pursue his goal while meeting current demands even though, by doing so, the attainment of his goal be delayed. In this, his task is similar to that of the agriculturist and range manager, both of whom must keep their lands producing at current levels while restoring them for greater future production.

The task of educating men for this service involves building up in their minds an appropriate attitude toward their professional responsibilities and supplying them with the technical knowledge and skill to discharge such responsibilities.

True professions are characterized by requiring special education for successful practice and by devotion to the general welfare rather than to selfish goals. Foresters qualify as professional men on both counts. The great leaders in forestry have been men who subscribed to certain basic tenets that guided their approach to their goal. The tenets of the forester have to do with science and its application to human welfare. They also, of necessity, embrace certain basic assumptions about man and his place in the universe. The forester's tenets have not been stated definitively, yet they exist and guide the thinking and actions of high level foresters whatever their country of origin. Many of the tenets to which foresters subscribe are shared with others interested in man's use of natural resources.

Tenets of foresters

In a listing of foresters' tenets would appear such expressions of faith as these:

Human life is sacred and good. It is man's highest study to protect it and to provide for its fulfillment.

Man can enjoy neither freedom of action nor fulfillment of life's promises if the basic sources for his existence are inadequate or if their effective use is not understood.

The earth and its resources are finite. Therefore, a limit does exist to the amount of food fibre and other renewable resources that are available for man's use in any period of time.

The earth's resources, if well developed, are ample today to provide for mankind the basic essentials for livelihood in substantially greater abundance than now is being realized.

Man is privileged to use renewable resources of the land to the full extent that he provides for their continued renewal at the current or higher rate of consumption. Needless waste of renewable resources robs mankind of the potential of creating a more abundant and satisfying life. This is a sin against the men of today. Needless destruction of soil and non-renewable resources robs both the man of today and those yet unborn.

Plants, animals and man respond to natural laws. Man through creative intellectual effort can discover and use natural laws. But, however imaginative man's insight or critical his tests, he is unlikely ever to discover all natural laws that govern plant and animal behavior or to understand completely his own place in the universe.

The complexities and simple magnitude of physical and biologic laws that affect man are so vast that no individual can grasp them all nor reduce their application in forestry to a mathematical basis alone. Art must always play a large role in man's husbandry of his essential resources.

The forest has its mysteries, its unknown and unsuspected drama. This involves countless plants and animals dwelling together in an interrelated community that makes up the life of the forest. Man should therefore approach the forest with humility and reverence. It is something sacred which should not be needlessly profaned.

As man's life is sacred, so his efforts should not be needlessly wasted.

Such tenets support the forester's drive toward his goal of managing forests for human welfare. Educators in forestry share these tenets with practitioners. The former also share with teachers in general certain tenets that-underlie all education, such as:

The teacher's highest duty is loyalty to truth and to cultivate in his students the capacity to arrive at truth.

Truth is rarely absolute, nor is it subject to approach from but one direction. Judgment and a sense of values are necessary to the educated man.

Acquaintance with the works of great teachers, statesmen, writers, artists, scientists and philosophers throughout the ages can build in the mind of the student a sense of values that will help him to make wise decisions.

Education is a life-long task for every man.

The degree course for forestry in Britain is generally a three years' one. The student's time is very fully occupied during the University terms. Practical work in forestry is mainly carried out in the vacations.

Students practicing notch-planting of spruce in North Wales.

A laboratory class in forest botany at the University College of North Wales.

By courtesy of British Information Service.

Each list of tenets might be considerably expanded. What is set forth will, however, serve to provide a foundation for discussing education in forestry.

General education

The educator in forestry must choose from the learned fields - literature, art, history, philosophy and religion - the type of educational material which will enable the student entering forestry to understand man and his aspirations, his hopes and fears, his longings and yearnings, his weakness and greatness, his kindness and wisdom. This would be an heroic task were it not that such subject matter underlies all education. The forester's need in these fields differs little in breadth from that of the basic education for statesman, writer, business man, public servant, clergyman, or teacher. Many schools of forestry require for admission demonstrated competence in such fields of general education. Too often this unfortunately means that, in the press of specialized study in forestry that follows, continued effort to widen and deepen general understanding may be neglected. The forester who misjudges his fellow man is doomed to failure no less serious than the one whose technical competence is inadequate.

The forestry educator may look to the generalist for help in determining the general education his students require. He himself, however, must determine the specialized knowledge needed.

Scope of the profession

The outsider might expect to find general agreement among foresters on the extent and character of specialized knowledge required for the practice of forestry. Such, however, is far from the case. The forestry profession is developing rapidly. Its activities are constantly being widened as new tasks which foresters alone are best fitted to perform are thrust upon them.

The debate among foresters centers on two questions: what is forestry, and what are foresters?

A formal definition of forestry is the science and art of forming, caring for or cultivating forests. Some interpret this as restricting forestry to the management of growing timber. Others maintain that forestry embraces the management of the forest land for all its products and services, including timber, and also water, wildlife, forage, and certain broad, human services such as soil protection and use for recreation. For example, the responsibilities of federal foresters in the United States were set forth by Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson in 1905 in his first directive to Chief Forester Pinchot. He used these words:

"All the resources of forest reserves are for use, and this use must be brought about in a thoroughly prompt and business-like manner under such restrictions only as will insure the permanence of these resources."

The directive mentions specifically wood, water and forage as products for use.

While forestry in theory deals primarily with trees as the chief biologic feature of the forest, the forest land manager must concern himself with all the land resources within the boundary of the forest it is his responsibility to manage. Therefore, the concept of the forester as a man concerned solely with growing timber, or more specifically growing trees on forest land, is now largely outdated, if, in fact, it ever had wide acceptance.

The forester has always been a land manager and where attempts have been made by either government or private landowners to restrict his activities specifically to trees, he has been ineffective in fulfilling his mission.

The forest land manager may sell his timber on the stump, his forage attached to the grass roots, and his water in the stream bed, and he may furthermore neglect the recreational value of his land and all minor forest products. If, however, he seeks to maximize the income from the land and hence the total of human satisfaction that may be derived from it, he may find it expedient to carry his responsibilities much farther. He may harvest timber and process it; he may manage herds of domestic animals; he may lease recreational privileges, including shooting rights. If multiple use is to be a basic feature of his land management program, the forester must have final control over all uses of the land, else he becomes, in fact, no land manager at all. Timber processing by the forester may include sawing lumber, manufacturing charcoal, preparing chipped wood for pulp mills, giving preservative treatments to fence post and poles, and manufacturing cross ties. Whether such timber processing is a part of forestry is largely an academic matter. The forest landowner is concerned with revenue from the land, and will hire the type of forester who can produce it.

This places on the forester the responsibility for making certain business judgments and decisions and for undertaking certain business operations to fulfill his mission as a land manager. He must be a man who can deal effectively in business terms with his superior. He must understand how to present his basic information, his conclusions, and his recommendations so that they can be readily understood and acted upon.

Breadth of education

Forests can be managed well only by one who understands the biologic nature of trees and of the other life that makes up the forest. In other words, a forester must have a basic understanding of living plants and their life requirements. He must be conversant with their basic mineral needs, their use of water, light, carbon dioxide, their growth responses to temperature, their genetic nature and capacity for variation, the other plants that compete with trees at the several stages in development from seedlings to mature trees, the insects and other animal life that feed upon trees and tree seed, and how the forest is affected by the vicissitudes of weather, and other natural forces.

The forester must have an understanding of soil, not solely as a source of moisture, mineral elements, and support for the tree, but also as a medium in which biologic activity is. extremely intense. He should be cognizant of how organic materials are being built up and broken down; of the myriads of small animals that burrow through the soil feeding on roots and organic debris, maintaining filth and aeration and providing channels for percolation of water. In the last analysis, the forester is really a manager of soil, and it is his capacity to maintain the soil in optimum productive capacity that determines his success as a grower of forest crops.

Biologic activity is made up to a large extent of various physical and chemical transformations. In harvesting and using products from the forest, man relies largely on physical and chemical means. The forester, therefore, requires a basic understanding of mathematics, physics and chemistry and their application in land surveying, timber estimating, construction of roads and other improvements, timber harvesting and processing, and in the control of insects and fungi, in fire control, and in the biologic processes that are essential to the health and well-being of forests.

The forester needs to understand wood as the main product of the forest, its physical and chemical properties and above all its many uses. It is through conversion of wood into useful products that revenue is obtained to protect, cultivate and rebuild the forest. The forester must also understand the other products of the forest and their potential use and value, especially the forest wildlife, water, forage, and secondary plants and plant products.

The forester deals with the physical and biologic world, but his objectives are basically related to man. He must operate in a social environment and make effective use of social institutions. Marketing of forest products, transporting them, administration in forestry, forest policy, personnel management, wildlife management, watershed management and management of areas for recreational use - these, which draw heavily upon the social sciences for basic understanding, must become a part of the forester's working knowledge.

The educator in forestry builds his professional courses on basic knowledge by the students of biologic, physical and social sciences. His unique contribution is forestry science and practice. The individual courses cover the establishment, protection and care of forests, the management of timber and related resources, forest products and their processing, and the administration of a forestry enterprise. They also include forestry history and policy, and the economic significance of forestry and its place in the general economy. Individual courses and their content vary widely from school to school and country to country, yet the common pattern referred to is maintained.

Depth of knowledge

Few men can encompass in a comprehensive way all fields of knowledge upon which forestry depends.

The forester as a land manager must, therefore, depend increasingly upon the services of research men and specialists in the several fields of forestry. The schools of forestry must educate research men as well as forest land managers. Forestry is one of those professions that has places for men of widely varying talents: for field forester and nurseryman, research man and teacher, planner and executive. It is a responsibility of forestry teachers to recognize talent in their students and to plan the* program in such a way that the young men of superior ability become interested in those fields where their creative talent can be widely used. Education in forestry indeed would miss its goal if it did not provide for challenging each youth so that he becomes of maximum service to his profession. This is difficult to reconcile with fixed curricula. However, no forestry school can be serving to best advantage unless the potential leaders among its students are recognized and provided educational challenges proportionate to their abilities.

Education for the individual is a lifelong task in both his profession and in his duties as a father, a citizen, and a servant to his fellow man. The rapid advances in knowledge gained through research and administrative practice need to be quickly disseminated to all practitioners. Here the schools have another role to play. Up to date, this has been a major function of professional societies. The task is becoming increasingly complex and the talents of the educator need to be drawn upon to evaluate and communicate new ideas. Conferences, symposia, and short courses may be used to meet this need.

A forestry school becomes in time much more than a training center for aspiring foresters. The expert knowledge of its professors is drawn upon to aid practitioners, industry and government. Its research work makes it a center that attracts visitors from many lands. It is constantly in touch with faculties in related fields for exchange of knowledge and methods that promote science and resource management. Because of its knowledge of many men, it is called upon by recruitment officers. Above all, it serves to disseminate clear thinking on vast resource problems. Thus its constituency embraces land owners and managers, industrialists, legislators and governmental administrators. It is an agency for promoting understanding and good will among resource managers and users everywhere. It is an agency for prosperity and peace.

The ultimate measure of any forestry school will be the success it attains in educating men to high ideals and broad purposes that enable them to become national and world leaders in forestry. Many schools have met with success in this as their graduates have risen to such positions as congressmen and other legislative representatives, governors, heads of great corporations and even prime ministers. The need for schools of world wide competence has never been greater than it is today, because forestry is becoming increasingly international in scope. This but accentuates the importance of linking professional knowledge to a wide understanding of science, government and mankind.

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