If the past twenty years has taught us anything about the state of the planet, it is that trees and the forests in which they flourish are its very life blood.
They absorb the poisonous levels of CO2 we pump into the atmosphere, and produce the pure oxygen we need to breathe. They're also a source of sustainable energy, and provide vital habitats for the creatures we share the Earth with.
It’s impossible to deny the importance of these gentle green giants. But are they really under threat? And what can you do about it? Read on for need-to-know insight on the state of forestry, and advice on how you can get involved. Maybe it's a career you'd consider? We've got you covered.
Why Should I Care About Forests?
Despite the fact that forests are a critical part of life on Earth, they are under siege like never before from overdevelopment and deforestation. And as our population increases, so too does the pressure we place on what limited natural resources we have as we hack away at our forests to make more space, fuel and food.
In South America, vast swathes of the Amazon Rainforest are being cut down each year. Some reports estimated that as much as three football pitches per minute are lost to logging, making way for agriculture and drilling for oil.
In North America, the famous Giant Redwood forests are facing extinction thanks to urban growth and pressure from illegal logging.
Even forests closer in the UK are facing grave threats. British readers amongst you might remember that back in 2011, the government announced their intention to sell off a significant proportion of the Public Forest Estate (PFE) for development. It lead to public outcry, thanks to which no action has yet been taken.
However, there is currently no legislation to protect these areas and the future of many ancient forests still hangs in the balance.
The forests of the world need you and here’s the big news: you don’t have to be a tree-hugging deodorant-dodger to make a difference!
Turn your Concern into a Career
If you enjoy the great outdoors (and have an ability to withstand inclement weather!), feel a passion for the natural environment and enjoy sharing that with others, then work in the forestry sector might be for you.
Forestry jobs are available at a local, national and global level and as with any other industry span a huge range of jobs from being a front-line, hands-on forest ranger to policy-making roles in the government – and practically everything in between. Interested in marketing and communications? Why not consider a career with one of the major conservation charities – you don’t have to get your hands dirty to make a difference!
The UK Government’s Forestry Commission advertises a variety of forestry jobs on their website and is well worth a look as a starting point.
In addition to looking for related degrees and qualification in subjects such as land management and conservation, employers in this industry also value volunteer experience. It shows them your passion for the environment and willingness to work hard for the cause – which will stand you in good stead when applying for work.
Get Experience Through Volunteering
Many organisations working to protect forests are charities themselves, funded by donations and grants with limited paid roles. Often the jobs that are available are offered to volunteers first, as their work ethic and ready-to-go skill set is clear to see. So if you do fancy a career in this area, your best bet is to start by volunteering.
Jamie Murfin, 17, has volunteered with Forestry Commission UK for the past three years in Nottinghamshire and says:
"With the Forestry Commission no day is ever the same and it’s a lot of fun. One of the best things is the people you meet, children and adults of all ages and abilities, and the experiences you gather."
The Woodland Trust offers volunteer and internship opportunities in forestry and conservation initiatives around the UK. They describe their internships as ‘structured career development’, which offer participants unique work experience and networking opportunities within the forestry industry.
These internships incorporate a wide range of forestry jobs from fundraising, marketing and communication roles within the organisation to frontline conservation and even creative art projects in forests. Find out about their current internships available here.
Spread Your Wings and Help the Forests of the World
There are some fantastic projects beyond the borders of the UK too. You'll still get relevant work experience, but with a taste of the exotic at the same time. Combine your love of environment and curiosity about the world we live in by joining a conservation expedition, environmental education programme or reforestation project overseas and I promise: you won't look back. Check out some of these awesome opportunities...
- Plant trees in Venezuela
Work alongside rangers in both marine and forest National Parks, helping to rebuild trails and signage, collecting seeds and replanting indigenous forests in threatened areas. You'll also get to deliver environmental education classes to children, help build schools and go on adventurous expeditions to Venezuela’s remote, unspoilt and mind-blowingly biodiverse regions.
Venezuela’s 43 national parks are protected areas of outstanding natural beauty covering a wide range of habitats including most of the best natural attractions in the nation. They span a fifth of Venezuela's vast territory and every state in Venezuela has at least one, yet they receive relatively little government funding. Get involved with the project here.
- Help to rebuilt the Galapagos Island’s lost indigenous forests
The Galapagos archipelago’s remote location 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador means that the islands’ flora and fauna have been almost entirely isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years - many without natural predators.
But in less than a generation some rare plant species have become dangerously threatened through the cultivation of invasive plant species. Mora (blackberry) and Gyauba plants are choking out indigenous trees and volunteers on one of our volunteering in Ecuador expeditions are needed to remove these alien species and give native plants a fighting chance. This is gardening at it’s most extreme!
- Protect cloud forests and educate kids in Costa Rica
Called ‘the jewel in the crown of cloud forest reserves’ by National Geographic, Monteverde is home to two of the world’s most remote wildlife enclaves and surrounded by dense tropical forests strung with mosses and fern.
The region is famed for prizing its precious ecosystem over ‘cashing in’ on tourism, choosing to remain cut off from the Pacific Coast by not developing major roadways.
You could help to support the area’s dedicated conservationists with a range of conservation and education projects to improve the region’s trails and signage, surveying flora and fauna, and creating posters, games and murals for local children visiting the cloud forest to learn about the environment. Get involved here.
Have Your Say
So, have I convinced you to explore a career in forestry? Do you like the sound of the volunteering opportunities suggested? And what do you think about the global forestry crisis? Share your thoughts or experiences by leaving a comment below.
Photo: © Rob Sinclair. Changes made.
on 02 / 06 / 2014