The Consultant - 2010 - (Page 46)

INSIDE ACF The View from the Rockies T BY JOHN E. WELLS, JR., ACF here aren’t many of us left. If you reference the Rocky Mountain states in the ACF Directory, you will see only 14 ACF foresters listed, about 2 percent of our membership. It must be noted that of those, nine work in Northern Idaho, an arguably Pacific Northwest habitat. Those of us who drive perhaps 300 miles, crossing sagebrush prairies to get to the high country timber, stepping around prairie rattlers as we open cowboy-tight wire gates, know we have it different than most other foresters. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. One of the fun parts of attending ACF national meetings is the interaction with fellow foresters from other parts of the country, hearing about their woods experiences and the evolution and operation of their forestry businesses. So, I will share a few thoughts about forestry life in the northern Rocky Mountains in the hope that others across the country will also offer insights into their professional lives. After all, we all entered forestry careers because we love walking in forests and breathing the scent of growing things. As one of my forestry professors once said, “You’ll never make any real money knowing about trees, but it is as rewarding a career as you can ask for.” One of the obvious and fun things about working in the northern Rockies is the prolific array of wildlife species we bump into while walking the high woods—though some of them we would rather not bump too hard. Besides the ubiquitous elk, mule deer, moose and even antelope, I have literally awakened a huge bull bison catching the cool on the forest edge. He was one of those “rotten” bulls that is so big and ornery that he can’t even get along with his compadres. Unlike elk and the other ungulates, he was not inclined to leave his space. Bison are not like whitetails. When they raise their tails, it had soon better be you running. Then there are the really unfriendlies, the ones that make the hair prickle on the back of your neck: the grizzly, the mountain lion and even black bear sows with cubs. Of those three, only the griz has yet to run me out of the woods. I expect that to happen any day. Grizzlies have broadened their range so much in the past 10 years that my belt now sports high power pepper spray and a Glock alongside my increment borer. The animal you feel most privileged to meet is the wolf. Wolves have prospered in Montana. There are almost no places you can go without knowing they are there, watching. Though they are cutty-eyed, they remain aloof and offer no opinion to my presence. What is most interesting is that all of these animals are found on private land. Private forest owners in the Rockies probably support as much threatened and endangered wildlife as the Forest Service. Shhh! But most recently, I am feeling a bit threatened myself. The drastic depression in the lumber markets has hit exceptionally hard in Montana, where a log haul distance of 200 miles is not unknown. Besides logging on steep slopes and with long haul distances, forest projects often entail new road construction through tough topography. All of these are expensive operations that quickly put otherwise profitable logging opportunities into the deficit column. We are now down to seven sawmills in a state that once supported dozens. This winter you could drive any highway in Montana and not see a single log truck on the road—a first in my career. But this is not a doom and gloom piece! There is much forest work to be done on private lands in Montana. We are in the midst of an unprecedented mountain pine beetle THE CONSULTANT 2010 46 http://www.acf-foresters.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Consultant - 2010

Executive Director’s Message
President’s Message
Putting Forests, Forestry and Forest Products on the Nation’s Agenda
The Average American Family Forest Owner
Growing Your Business in the Current Recession
Engaging Family Woodland Owners: A Social Marketing Approach
Making Numbers Tell the Truth
Where Are the Conflicts of Interest in Timber Sale Fees?
Marketing Your Business
Income Tax on Cost Share Payment from the Forest Health Protection Program
Improving Appraisals for Tax Reporting Purposes
Expert Witnessing
Meet Paddy Bruton… Again
Being Jim Spitz
The View from the Rockies
Musings of an Endangered Species, or What to do After the Rapture

The Consultant - 2010

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