My journey to a career in forestry was a long one. In the small town where I grew up, my parents were volunteer firefighters. Despite being only 5 feet tall and about 100 pounds when soaking wet, my mother rose to the rank of Lieutenant and always found a way to get the job done. I looked up to her dedication and tenacity to take on the job. When I was 14, I was permitted to join as a "cadet" firefighter, and after a few years of careful observation I was treated as one of the crew. I became passionate about firefighting and felt that it was what I was meant to do for the rest of my life. I loved the discipline, the order, and the simple mechanics of humans and machines working together to accomplish a goal. The mystery of never knowing when, where, or how a fire emergency would strike made the job still more intoxicating.
My parents insisted that I attend college regardless of what my ultimate career plans were. My fire chief at the time told me that many firefighters end up choosing to study forestry. I decided that this made good sense, as forestry had to do with the outdoors, and the outdoors burn. With very little further thought, I decided to attend Humboldt State University where my brother was already going, since they had a good forestry school. I spent the next 5 years at Humboldt State before graduating in 1999 with a BS in forestry and a minor in computer information systems.
By the time I graduated, it became clear that a career in the fire service was not right for me. Despite being everything I loved, it was simply not what I was meant to do for a living. Instead, I began a career as a forester, which has been filled with many adventures and excitements of its own.
During my apprenticeship, I worked for a forestry consulting firm out of Redding, California. Here, I learned firsthand how to prepare forests for management over a 100 year cycle. I walked the land, decided where harvest areas would be placed, and made digital maps of the areas to be managed. When winter came, I would return to the office and assist with computer modeling that predicted how fast the forest would grow, where future harvests could be, and how much wood the forest could produce in a sustainable manner.
After a time, I was finally able to complete my training and take the examination to become a Registered Professional Forester. By then, I had been promoted to managing the department that handled all of the forest inventory and modeling work, as well as being asked to handle marketing and sales. It was a handful, but I have always liked challenges.
When that job ended due to downturns in the economy, I went to work for myself, using my previous skills to serve as a forestry expert for clients who needed help with education, media, and public policy issues. I also kept working in the woods, advising on forest restoration projects and timberland conversion projects.
When the economy again began trending towards a downturn, I took a job with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Not only did this allow me to continue my work as a forester, but I was also able to be a firefighter again. Life had come full circle.
Then one day in 2008 while working on a fire, I found an injured black bear cub who had lost his mother. The rescue and rehabilitation of the bear I named Li’l Smokey was an unforgettable experience you can learn more about HERE.