Career Profile: Forest and Conservation Technician
A large portion of Canada, across all the provinces and territories, is covered with boreal forest. This forest is both the habitat for the wide and varied wildlife of our country, but also a valuable resource for wood and wood products which Canada uses for its own population, as well as for trade with other countries. Canada’s forests are also popular for camping, hiking, fishing and other outdoor recreational activities, and are also an essential part of the culture and lifestyle of Canada’s Indigenous people.
But contrary to what you might think, because people want to use the forest as a resource, this means the forest must be carefully managed to ensure that wildlife still has enough habitat to live in, activity spaces are maintained and safe, and that the wood resources we have are not depleted.
This is the role and responsibility of forestry and conservation technicians, who work to manage forest environments by performing surveys of trees and wildlife, using photographic and mapping techniques to prepare management and harvest plans, and coordinating many forest activities including fire suppression, timber scaling, disease and insect control, thinning, and reforestation planting. Forestry technicians will also assist to plan, develop and build forest access roads for logging and conservation use, so that these workers can reach the areas they need.
Forestry technicians will collect data on the different types of trees, wildlife, water sources, and other plants that live in a section of forest, and use this information to make decisions about when and where a section of forest should be trimmed, culled, or harvested. They will also ensure that all forest activities are conducted safely, and in accordance to any local, municipal, provincial, and national requirements for logging, environmental protection, and conservation.
Most forestry technicians will live and work in areas that have a significant amount of surrounding woodlands, and therefore a strong forestry industry. This can include working for logging companies, for timber or wood pulp mills and processing companies, both as an employee or as a contractor. You could also work on the conservation side through the government and the Ministry of Natural Resources, which has offices and conservation operations across Canada.
This career is ideal for people who enjoy being outdoors and working with their hands, as much of the work takes place on site in a woodlot, logging camp, or reforestation project. It can also be a great job for those who like working with others, as outreach is often an important part of a forester’s job. This can be through forest fire prevention and safety presentations, or working at one of Canada’s national or provincial parks to maintain the grounds and help campers to enjoy their experience.
Educational requirements are a minimum of high school if accompanied with an apprenticeship or other work experience, but usually a one to three-year college or university program in forestry or a related subject will be required to work in this industry. This field is also regulated in most provinces and territories, so you will likely be required to complete a certification or registration process in your province. You may also need some additional licensing, such as a scaler’s license, depending on your job.
Wages start around $17 per hour for entry level positions, up to around $45 per hour, depending on your level of experience, and which province or territory you’re working in. Working hours are usually fairly regular, as most outdoor forestry work can only be done during daylight hours, but your schedule can include long days or travel to worksites.