OSU students look forward to career in forestry

Freshly logged trees in a sustainable forest.By CRAIG REED For the Capital Press Jan 17, 2024

This article was originally published by Capital Press HERE


Ore. — Sustainable forest management is the future goal for Oregon State University students Jake Gerrard and Isaac Cherry.

The young men from Oregon’s Douglas County want to see trees planted, grown, harvested and then that area replanted.

Gerrard is a senior and Isaac is a junior at Oregon State University in Corvallis. Gerrard will graduate in June with a bachelor of science degree in forest management. Cherry is on track to earn his bachelor’s degree in forest management in June 2025. “I’m looking forward to being able to see the work I’ve done over the years turn into stands of tall trees again,” Gerrard said in looking to his future. “To see a harvest, then replanting and then tall by the time I retire is my hope.”

Both students were exposed to forestry at young ages. Gerrard’s grandmother, Nancy Benzel, is a small woodlands owner in northern Douglas County. As a teenager, he helped with maintenance of her forest, doing backpack spraying of invasive weeds, limbing trees, keeping fences up to keep cattle out of the young tree stands and keeping roads cleared. Gerrard graduated from North Douglas High School in 2020 and enrolled in the two-year forestry program at Umpqua Community College. He earned an associate’s degree in forest management in 2022 and transferred to OSU. Cherry’s first exposure to forestry also came when he was a teenager.

On several occasions, he rode with Luke Harris, his brother-in-law and a contract timber cruiser for Roseburg Forest Products. Cherry was a dual credit home school and Umpqua Community College student during his high school years. To fulfill a science requirement, he took a dendrology class at UCC. Dendrology is the study of trees and other woody plants such as shrubs and vines.

“It just happened to fit in my schedule,” Cherry said of taking the class that helped spark his interest and led to him entering UCC’s two-year forestry program. “Forestry seemed to be something I was good at and could enjoy for a career.”

Cherry made the transition to OSU last fall. In addition to classroom work, Gerrard and Cherry have also experienced forestry work with summer jobs. Gerrard worked for a road building company during his high school and UCC summers, running equipment used in the construction of logging roads. Cherry worked one summer at a sawmill in Roseburg, learning about that process in the timber industry.

“I figured knowing how a mill operates would be educational and helpful for me with a career in forestry,” Cherry said. “It’s all connected.” While at UCC, both students applied for and received internships for recent summer jobs at Lone Rock Timber in Roseburg. Their work included surveys to determine the number of trees per acre, measuring survival and studying the impact of vegetation and wildlife on the trees. They also surveyed stream buffers.

“We learned the importance of precise planning and execution of the timber inventory, how the tree inventory drives management of forests,” Cherry said. “The internship drove home for me that forestry was something I could enjoy and do as a career.” Gerrard hopes to return to Central Douglas County after his graduation in June and to secure a job in the private forestry industry.

“Working in silviculture is my ultimate goal,” Gerrard said. Silviculture is the science of growing and harvesting forest crops to meet the needs of timber production.

“The rules are changing every year, but at the end of the day I just want to see timber harvests, regeneration of the forest and then timber stands that can eventually be harvested again,” he said.