Mentoring young foresters in North America

Great leaders in forestry aren't born. The're coached. With our Mentorship Programme in North America, senior foresters seed the next generation of Sappi leaders to work at the vanguard of sustainable forestry.

Meet Luke and Julie 

Luke Lamond grew up in the forestry business working in the woods with his father, a consulting forester who taught him everything about forest management. Luke is a graduate of the University of Maine in Orono with a degree in Forest Operations, Bioproducts and Bioenergy. In 2014 he was awarded the College of Forest Resources’ Dwight B. Demeritt Forestry Award, which recognises top students in forest resources and wildlife.

Even with Luke’s impressive background, he had a steep learning curve when he came to Sappi. Luke’s roots were in rural Maine, where logging and timber harvesting are a way of life, and most landowners own large tracts of land that they hold as working forests. Luke, however, was going to work in the more urbanised southern part of the state, where forestry operations are not as well understood by the public.

Julie Davenport’s father is also a forester, but she had no intention of following in his footsteps. “I didn’t spend much time in the woods with my Dad growing up. I knew what a skidder was, but not much else”, she says. Nonetheless, in college, Julie found forestry more interesting than her original field of study, and she now holds a degree in forestry from the University of Maine. 

In college she served as the President of Xi Sigma Pi, the international forestry honour society, was a pole climber on the Woodsmen’s Team and worked for the Maine Forest Service during summers and her final year of school. Prior to joining Sappi, Julie worked in wood procurement at a paper mill in western Maine. Similarly, her initial role as a forestry technician for Sappi proved challenging, with so much to learn.

From the classroom to the forests

Through the mentorship programme, Luc and Julie gained the on-the-job training they simply could not in the classroom. Only a portion of the skills and understanding of the complexity of sustainable forest management is taught in forestry school, according to Charlie Hall, Manager of Sappi’s Forestry Programme in Maine. “It takes 5 to 7 years of field work to gain the experience and build the confidence necessary to solidify your role as a procurement forester”, he says.

The job of a Sappi procurement forester has many facets. The forester must have a thorough understanding of silviculture to improve the health of the forest. Which trees should be removed to spur growth of the residual forest, which should be kept as seed trees or to provide even distribution of age classes? They also need to understand business fundamentals and market conditions.

Environmental considerations are always paramount. How does the forester best protect water quality and minimise any runoff or rutting issues? Should the land only be harvested in the winter when the ground is frozen, or in the summer and fall when it is drier? Do roads and landings need to be cut before the harvest begins so they can freeze or dry out before the introduction of heavy equipment? Which equipment is right for the job, and is it available when needed? Are all the needed permits in place before harvesting begins?

There are also important wildlife and biological considerations. What is best to preserve habitat for deer or cottontail rabbits? Are there endangered species that need protection?

The forester needs to have answers to all these questions and more. Then, they must also successfully convey this information to the landowners, loggers, abutters and the public. An effective forester builds relationships and trust. They must have the confidence to move forward with the development and implementation of a management plan, adjusting as needed to rapidly changing conditions. 

Seeding the next generation 

Almost no one has all these competencies as a recent graduate just entering the job market. That is why Sappi’s mentorship programme is so vital. By working closely with mentors who are world-class foresters, Luke and Julie are gaining the insights and skills they need to become leaders themselves in sustainable forestry.

Sappi’s mentorship programme was lauded as a Best Practice by the Lead Auditor for Bureau Veritas Certification, during a 2018 third-party forestry certification audit of Sappi’s forestry practices. The programme continues to be recognised by educators and industry groups alike for its effectiveness and quality.

Interested in our Mentorship Programme in North America? We're happy to hear from you!