October 2, 2003

Dear Susan,

I read with interest the article written by Jasmine Wolf in the last ECFLA Newsletter.

I am very disappointed with the job the Ms. Wolf did of portraying the work of Industrial Foresters and disappointed that you as editor did not question the very biased view that was written. As many of the ECFLA members know, there are good and bad in both consulting foresters and industrial foresters, as there is in any profession.

I could go into the details of bad experiences that landowners have had with consultants but I am more concerned that your organization and newsletter do a better job of providing accurate, unbiased articles to assist landowners in improving their forest and finding people who can provide top quality services when it comes to forest management.

Let me say this as an Industrial Forester: we at Hull Forest Products offer many of the same services that a Consultant Forester does, with the exception of putting timber out to bid for private landowners. Yes, our goal in providing management services to forest landowners is to ensure a sustainable flow of timber to our mill. I am paid by the hour by Hull Forest Products and the money is not deducted from what would be paid to the landowner as was indicated in the article by Ms. Wolf. I am not aware of any Industrial Forester that is paid in that manner. Since Ms. Wolf did not bother to interview any Industrial Foresters for the article, I wonder what her source was for the comment. I consider any landowner that I work with a client, and want to develop a long-term relationship with them. I strive to make sure that they are happy with the work provided by Hull Forest Products and are treated in a fair manner in terms of what they are paid for their timber. I have never been instructed by my employer to cut a woodlot in a manner that will help the short-term interest of the mill. I feel that it is very short sighted to imply that the Industrial Forester is not looking out for the interest of the landowner. It is in our best interest to keep a satisfied client, as no one has more invested in terms of time or money than Hull Forest Products. I can show you thousands of acres of client’s land that have been improved through our forest management activities, while providing a very reasonable return and in many cases a greater rate of return than what would have been realized through the bid process to the landowner.

Certainly there are times where a landowner may receive more for their timber through the bid process, although that does not necessarily mean they net more in the end. In any event, in order to win a bid, often the high bidder has had to make the decision to operate the woodlot at a slim to non-existent profit margin, or the quality of the work in the woods may suffer as the bidder must cut every corner possible to reduce his costs- or both. Sometimes these impacts are not visible in the woods per se, but back at the mill, in fact the high bidder is a sawmill, they may be unable to reinvest as it should to maintain its’ efficiency or provide for its’ employees. Perhaps the high bidder sacrifices memberships in professional organizations, or neglects public outreach and education, or cuts in any other of the less visible aspects that promote sound forest management for the good of all, and keep their company viable. There is one company, that has regularly won bids and been awarded them by a local consultant forester. This company employs approximately 10 people at their mill and they treat their help so badly that they have gone through as many as 100 employees in the course of a year. Should this be taken into consideration by the landowner selling the timber? Perhaps not, as long as they got more dollars for their timber that should be the only consideration. Personally I think that it should be taken into consideration. Should a landowner be concerned if the high bidder does any public outreach? I think they should, as it is in all of our best interest that the public be informed of the benefits that our forest provides, to sustain us. If one is truly concerned about the well being of our forest lands for the long term and wants to insure that they have marketing options for their timber, I believe landowners should be concerned that there is a viable local forest products industry. That creates sustainable local jobs and adds significantly more dollars to the local economy.
Thank you.
Michael J. Bartlett, Forest Resources Manager
Editor’s Note:
Thank you to Mike for clarifying the way industrial foresters are paid. Since Jasmine Wolf’s article had been reviewed by several professionals prior to her submitting it to me, I must confess that I didn’t catch all the implications that were so hurtful to Mr. Bartlett. As was previously noted, I cannot be responsible for the accuracy of every item in submitted articles. Hull Forest Products has earned a very good reputation in the forest products industry and we at ECFLA are very grateful for the support that Hull Forest Products plays in our organization.
This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in the December 2003 ECFLA/WDLT Newsletter.