Guild-inspired forestry in Montana, and a call for more.

Written by Mark Vander Meer, Watershed Consulting

I imagine that Guild Forestry in Montana and Idaho is like Guild forestry anywhere - we put the forest first. Our company, Watershed Consulting, has been a Guild member for nearly 20 years, all-the-while encouraging practices that enhance the ecologic integrity of Montana's forests and streams. We practice all types of ecological restoration, but enjoy our forestry work the most. Early on, the Forest Stewards Guild's vision, mission and principals provided the foundation for our forest work. Twenty years ago, we were laughed out of the woods for leaving the largest and most valuable trees standing. We maintained our stance. Now leaving the largest, most fire adapted trees is a common practice. Looking back on a few decades of expansive wildfires, leaving those trees proved to be the right thing to do, both ecologically and economically.  

For the most part, forest practices have improved greatly over the past 20 years and the trend remains positive. The Guild should be proud of the foundational work and excellent examples provided to foresters and practitioners, starting years ago. Today, Guild membership numbers in the Northern Rockies are relatively low, while the opportunity to gain membership is high. Foresters and practitioners in Montana are eager to learn and apply the type of forestry the Guild encourages. We are hopeful that increased connections among interested researchers, land managers, foresters, and others in the region, along with improved communication and networking support by the Guild, and the expansion of national programs such as Foresters for The Birds and Women Owning Woodlands will help build a stronger presence of Guild-style forestry in the Northern Rockies.







For our part, we provide forestry services on two scales, long term comprehensive land management and short term single entry work. Single entry work typically involves fire hazard thinning in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). Long term management includes environmental assessments, economic investigations, project design, on the ground work, and monitoring. Both approaches offer deep satisfaction but working a larger forest for many years is especially rewarding.   

Often, our work yields saw logs of somewhat dubious character and value. To capture more value from our efforts, we operate a sawmill and provide rough-cut boards, beams and slabs to our community. We mill about 65mbf annually. To add even more value to our wood, we manage a timber-framing and furniture shop.  

The upshot is that we live in a time where we must contribute to the ecologic capital of our forests. Hopefully our investment will allow future generations to continue developing an appropriate relationship between people and forests.