Fewer people these days seem to want to work in the Oklahoma woods.
The Oklahoma Forestry Services is struggling to fill job openings, forester George Geissler said.
The state has four positions for state foresters that have gone unfilled, even after nationwide
Forester positions are open in Jay, Oklahoma City, Sallisaw and Broken Bow.
“We're having issues staffing foresters across the state,” Geissler said.
Although Oklahoma may have an image as a prairie state, about 25 percent is woodlands, Geissler said.
Oklahoma's woodlands reach the eastern parts of central Oklahoma and Oklahoma City, he said, so the work of a forester is not solely in the pine forests of southeast Oklahoma.
The central Oklahoma area — known as the wild
Oklahoma State University offers a degree program in forestry, but the number of graduates has been down in recent years, Geissler said.
“We have not had much luck finding candidates,” he said.
The most recent hires for the state forestry services all have been from out of state, said Geissler, who earned his degree at Louisiana State University.
Erin Johnson, 29, is an OSU graduate from Oklahoma City who is a staff forester in the Oklahoma City office. She was hired in 2005 after completing her Bachelor of Science degree in forest management. She works on the land stewardship program, helping landowners manage and profit from trees.
She is one of 29 foresters working now.
Johnson said a career as a forester is a good way to “get outdoors.” She spent the first few years as a forester growing seedlings at the state's tree nursery near Goldsby.
“It's not all desk jobs,” Johnson said. “Being outdoors you are able to plant trees, improve soil erosion, water quality and wildlife habitat. It is making a
The work done by foresters is diverse, Geissler said. Foresters are “not just the guy in the tower” watching for wildfires.
They can specialize in learning to grow and produce trees, manage wild land fires, fight wildfires or work to improve water quality issues for lakes and streams, he said.
Geissler said the nationwide search for more foresters will continue.
The annual salary starts in the $40,000 range and is negotiable, Geissler said. He said Oklahoma's pay range is lower than surrounding states and that could be contributing to the problem.