Forest Management: Definition, Strategies, Benefits and Jobs

Updated October 12, 2023

A person in a reflective vest directs two children in planting a tree.

Forest management is a branch of forestry that involves protecting and restoring forests and other vital ecosystems and reducing hazards. Individuals who work in forest management are responsible for monitoring the health of different ecosystems and developing strategies to protect local flora and fauna, in addition to the people and animals that live near a protected area. If you have an interest in working outside and protecting the environment, learning more about forest management may help you decide whether it's the right career for you. 

In this article, we define forest management, discuss a few forest management strategies, list some of the benefits of this career path and describe a few available jobs within the field. 

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What is forest management?

Forest management is the process of protecting and maintaining a forested area. It often involves evaluating the soil, trees and vegetation within a forest ecosystem and performing a variety of complex tasks to improve land management practices.

Forest management also requires creating strategies for handling various natural disasters such as wildfires and ensuring the safety of the people who live nearby. Individuals who work in forest management may also develop plans for managing a given ecosystem. The ecosystems they manage can range from large forests to smaller community parks. 

Related: How To Become a Forester (With Salary Details and FAQs)

Forest management strategies

To properly manage a forest ecosystem, people working in forest management are typically responsible for the following:

Harvesting timber

Harvesting is the act of cutting down trees for timber. People working in the timber industry typically conduct this strategy to sell timber and earn income. A forestry manager might harvest wood from a forest responsibly, ensuring that the act of cutting down trees avoids affecting the surrounding area. For example, they may only cut down mature trees that are nearing death.

Related: Top 10 Forestry Degree Jobs

Thinning trees

Thinning involves removing trees or other plant life to promote the growth of naturally occurring species in an ecosystem and remove any invasive species. This practice helps improve the value of timber and ensures that an ecosystem remains healthy. For example, a forestry manager may decide to thin trees that don't positively contribute to wildlife habitats or wood production, leaving more space for the trees that do to grow. 

Planting trees 

Forestry managers often consider the long-term goals of the forest service where they work before implementing growing practices to replace the trees they previously remove. Planting trees to replace burned or damaged areas can help support an ecosystem's wildlife.

Since it can take many years to regrow trees, it's often important for forestry managers to introduce growth strategies as early as possible. This often involves choosing locations for new trees and plants and testing the soil. 

Managing wildlife

Another forest management practice involves managing the wildlife within a forested ecosystem. Foresters are responsible for ensuring that the actions they take don't harm existing wildlife while also helping promote the health of an endangered species.

They may track different species to monitor their population growth, reintroduce species into a forested area and create strategies for handling predators. Forestry managers may also examine bodies of water, such as streams and rivers, to ensure the wildlife has safe water to live in and drink.

Related: 20 Career Options for Working With Wildlife

Controlling risk

Many forested areas are at risk of wildfires and other natural disasters. There are a variety of causes for wildfires, including lightning strikes and human accidents. Fires can spread quickly, so it's often important for forest management officials to develop strategies to reduce the destruction they cause. They may decide to engage in controlled burning, which involves burning off dry, dead timber on a forest floor to help to slow the spread of future wildfires.

Benefits of working in forest management

There are several benefits associated with working in forest management, including:

Varied responsibilities

People who work in forest management typically have a variety of responsibilities that may vary from day to day. They engage in planning activities and strategize ways to promote the health of a forest, but they may also help enforce the rules within a forested area and engage in more scientific activities like soil sampling. If you want to work in a career where you can enjoy an assortment of duties that often change, forest management might be a good option. 

Opportunity to work outside 

If you have an interest in working outside in nature, forest management might be an appealing career. Depending on their daily responsibilities, forestry managers may work outdoors for extended periods of time. They may also receive the opportunity to travel to a variety of areas to manage different ecosystems, 

Related: 50 Outdoor Jobs To Pursue (Plus Average Salaries and Duties)

Potential to protect natural ecosystems 

Working in forest management can be an especially rewarding career for people who care about the environment and want to help protect natural ecosystems. Forestry managers can help protect local wildlife and nearby humans and plant life, in addition to the forest itself.

Forest management can also be important for protecting the soil quality of a forest. A healthier environment can help increase recreational activities such as camping and hiking. Planting more trees can also help reduce air pollution, improving the overall air quality. 

Related: 16 In-Demand Environmental Jobs You Can Perform

Wildfire reduction opportunities

Wildfires can destroy large forested areas in a short amount of time before spreading to areas populated by people. Through active forest management, people can decrease the spread and intensity of wildfires to a controllable level.

This helps prevent the destruction of large ecosystems and areas near those ecosystems, often savings lives in the process. If you desire a career in fire prevention that doesn't involve firefighting, forest management may be worth considering.

Related: 11 Fire Science Degree Jobs To Consider (Plus Tips for Getting One)

Chance to work with wildlife

Forest management officials may have the opportunity to work directly with wildlife and reintroduce species into a natural environment. They can help benefit wildlife by helping provide for their needs and ensuring that their environment is safe enough to support them. If you have an interest in working with wildlife in a more indirect capacity, forest management may be a good option. 

Related: How To Get a Job in Wildlife

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5 jobs in forest management

Here are five careers related to forest management for you to consider:

1. Forester 

National average salary: $39,066 per year

Primary duties: Foresters help manage public or private forested lands for recreational or conservation purposes. They help devise plans for planting and growing new trees, monitor trees to ensure that they continue to grow correctly and develop harvesting schedules. They may also manage park budgets and help train and supervise other forest management employees. 

Read more: Learn About Being a Forester

2. Forestry technician

National average salary: $45,312 per year

Primary duties: Forestry technicians help research wildlife for conservation, analyze plant and animal samples, assist forestry managers and other forestry management officials with the development of conservation strategies and help protect natural resources. They may also help manage wildfires and analyze weather data. 

3. Forest ranger

National average salary: $51,792 per year

Primary duties: Forest rangers protect wildlife from poaching, overfishing or excessive hunting within a wooded area. They also help enforce federal and state laws within their designated area. These rangers may provide services to park visitors, enforce park rules and report rule violations to the appropriate authorities. 

4. Forestry manager

National average salary: $56,566 per year

Primary duties: A forestry manager helps oversee the management of forests and other natural areas. They help plan and implement strategies to maintain forests, manage wildlife populations, conduct studies and harvest timber. They may also test the water and air quality and develop methods for protecting habitats. 

5. Forest warden 

National average salary: $58,744 per year

Primary duties: Forest wardens guard forested areas and help protect them from fire, trespass and vandalism. They may help law enforcement protect fish and game and maintain public campgrounds, trails and wilderness areas. They also conduct search and rescue operations, inspect logging operations to ensure they comply with local, state and federal regulations and educate the public about important conservation issues.

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