Internships building the future of forest stewardship

The Forest Stewards Guild partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help build the future of forest stewardship. Internship opportunities offer new and aspiring professionals hands- and minds-on experiences in tackling the challenges of forest management in true Guild style - in ways that are sustainable, responsible and that honor the needs of the forests and the communities who depend on them. Joseph Becker, an Ohio State University graduate, and an intern in this program in South Carolina since mid-February, shares his experience:

“Working with the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, I have experienced firsthand how
every management action you take has the potential to affect multiple other aspects of your environment. We modify our timber thinning to minimize disturbance in red cockaded woodpecker nesting areas and plan out activities differently than one would in a commercial timber harvest. A tree that would have otherwise been harvested may be left standing because a high branch provides a nice place for a hawk to perch. Paying attention to these small details can have a huge cumulative effect on the overall health of your forest.

A lot of what we do is a balancing act between managing for human use and ecosystem health.
Once controlled by intense and regular wildfires, native turkey oak now dominates the understory at regular intervals, as large swaths of land remain unburnt for many years due to unintentional firebreaks in the form of roads. We want people to have easy access to the refuge, but also need to insure the species distribution reflects historic trends. To accomplish this, we have been running trials on several experimental plots for an herbicide we believe to be effective in controlling the turkey oak population while leaving longleaf pine and other desirable flora unharmed.

We are always on the lookout for invasive species that may disrupt or displace native ones. Several weeks were spent harvesting and treating a forest stand heavily infested with nonnative bamboo, with regular herbicide applications schedules in the upcoming years. We also put up pheromone traps to detect emerging insect pests, and trap wild hogs to mitigate rooting damage. Treating issues early and before they have the chance to grow exponentially saves time and effort.

In my time spent here, I have learned techniques that will help me survey, collect data, and make informed management decisions in the future. We combine traditional management techniques with technology such as ArcGIS to make sure the land is optimal for wildlife habitat, plant health, and human enjoyment.” - Joe Becker

From the editor: Joe’s summary makes our hearts glow! The concepts he has learned are exactly what we’d hope for him to take away. Part of this success is undoubtably attributed to long-time Guild-member, Jack Culpepper’s involvement in this program. Joe, and many interns before him, have shadowed Jack, who was a Guild-style forester in action every day. Jack passed away in April and will be dearly missed. If you haven’t seen it, you can still visit his online memorial page. He would be pleased to know that this program is set to continue, to expand the field of forest stewards. Our next intern, Rebecca Cherian, is in her first week at the site now. We’ll hear more about her experience in coming months.