Silviculture and forestry workers (NOC 8422)

About this job

Silviculture and forestry workers perform a variety of duties related to reforestation and to the management, improvement and conservation of forests. This occupational group includes forest firefighters.

See what a day in the life of this job is like—watch WorkBC’s Career Trek video about this occupation.

Source: WorkBC’s Career Trek

People in this occupation:

  • may find job opportunities through logging companies, contractors and government services, depending on the specific occupation
  • may be salaried employees, while others, such as tree planters, are typically paid by the amount of work completed
  • need to be physically fit, well coordinated and comfortable with rugged terrain
  • should also be self-motivated, adaptable and comfortable working in remote areas under a range of conditions
  • need the ability to apply reasoning and make decisions
  • may be required to work independently with minimal supervision
  • should be able to do map and photo reading, compassing and distancing, identification of forest plants and trees, measuring and recording, and operation of GPS units
Common job titles
  • brush cutter - forestry
  • operator, clearing saw / spacing saw
  • pieceworker - silviculture
  • seed cone collector / picker
  • tree pruner / precommercial tree thinner
  • worker, logging crew / conservation
  • brush cutter - forestry
  • operator, clearing saw / spacing saw
  • pieceworker - silviculture
  • seed cone collector / picker
  • tree pruner / precommercial tree thinner
  • worker, logging crew / conservation

Duties

Silviculture and forestry workers perform some or all of the following duties:

  • assess sites, select seedlings and plant trees using manual planting tools in reforestation areas
  • operate power thinning saw to thin and space trees in reforestation areas
  • operate chain saw to thin young forest stands
  • control weeds and undergrowth in regenerating forest stands using manual tools and chemicals
  • complete firefighting reports and maintain firefighting equipment
  • dig trenches, cut trees, pump water on burning areas to fight forest fires under direction of fire suppression officer or forestry technician
  • operate and maintain a skidder, bulldozer or other prime mover to pull a variety of scarification or site preparation equipment over areas to be regenerated
  • do other silviculture duties, such as collecting seed cones, pruning trees, helping with planting surveys and marking trees for later operations

Work environment

Since work may be located in remote areas, silviculture and forestry workers generally must travel and live at camp facilities for extended periods of time. Work in this occupational group may also be seasonal.

Work usually takes place outdoors under a variety of weather conditions and temperatures. The workweek is typically 40 hours, with weekend shifts as required. Workers may be required to work long hours and 10–12 hour work days are common.

Forestry firefighters' shifts are normally conducted from first light (or earlier if travel is involved) until early evening, when fires are most likely to start.

Silviculture workers, such as tree planters, work a limited season, most typically in spring and summer.

The nature of silviculture and forestry work can be physically demanding, as workers are required to bend, stoop and crouch throughout the work day. In addition, workers are often required to carry heavy equipment and supplies, and walk or move very quickly over steep and uneven terrain. Forest firefighters are exposed to smoke, intense heat and fumes.

Increasingly, workers are required to use computerized information for their work.

Insights from industry

Employment opportunities are expected to arise from both new job creation and the need to replace experienced workers who retire. However, due to the small size of this occupational group, the number of openings will be somewhat limited.

In recent years, a number of factors, such as environmental concerns, land use legislation, the rising Canadian dollar, a declining U.S. housing market, trade disputes and mill closures, have reduced the demand for logging activity in B.C.. As a result, the need for reforestation and enhanced silviculture activity (such as pruning, spacing and thinning young trees) has declined. This has reduced the need for silviculture and forestry workers.

On the other hand, other factors may have a somewhat positive impact on this occupational group. For example, a provincial government plan to shift from old-growth to second-growth harvesting in coastal forests involves cultivating faster-growing trees, increased fertilization and a shorter growth-to-harvest cycle. This activity, as well as a planned increase in the planting and harvesting of deciduous hardwoods, would increase opportunities for silviculture workers if put into place.

In addition, climate change is contributing to significant changes in provincial forests. In recent years, the mountain pine beetle and forest fires have destroyed millions of hectares of woodland. The silviculture industry is likely to play a role in the restoration of these areas.

Silviculture and forestry workers are now required to capture more information about a broader array of resources, including fish, wildlife, soils, and cultural and heritage features. There has also been a gradual increase in the amount of technology and mechanization used in these jobs. As a result of these developments, more in-depth training of these workers is required. Industry sources also predict more opportunities for workers highly skilled in prescribed burn and fuel management for ecosystem restoration.

Demand for forest firefighters varies, but is generally steady during long, dry summers. However, the majority of firefighters hired by the British Columbia Forest Service are workers with previous experience who are recalled to work rather than new hires. To learn about other firefighting occupations, see the profile for Firefighters (NOC 6262).

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Experienced silviculture and forestry workers may advance to supervisory and project management positions. University-trained professionals could become senior managers or CEOs.

With additional education, these workers may move into related occupations such as forestry technician, technologist or registered professional forester.

Additional resources