The Role of Business in Forestry | Rayonier Stories

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In the Woods and in the Boardroom, Forestry is Big Business

Wise business decisions play a critical role in every aspect of forestry. The University of Georgia combines its renowned forestry and business programs to offer a unique program focused on the business side of forestry.

What comes to mind when you imagine the role of a forester? An orange-vested woodsman cruising trees? An ecologist taking soil and water samples? A team of loggers clearing an area and ferrying logs on a mountainside? 

Forestry can be all of these things, but none of that would work if we didn’t also have the business side of forestry. Think about the strategizing involved in harvesting timber in the most cost-effective way and delivering it to the mills that will give the  greatest return. Imagine the logistics of shipping logs to the other side of the world. And, for publicly-traded forestry companies, making timber an attractive investment takes astute business sense.

For Rayonier, the business side of forestry plays a critical role in every step of the forest lifecycle. As a Real Estate Investment Trust, also known as a REIT, we are responsible to deliver an attractive return to our shareholders. Strong forestry business leaders play a critical role in our company and in our industry.

“Many timberland owners have land as an investment,” says Joe Parsons, Associate Director of the Harley Langdale, Jr. Center for Forest Business at the University of Georgia. “From that standpoint, they are running a business where their production facility is the timberland, and their product is wood.” 

Students measure a tree in the forest
UGA students take measurements in Professor Bronson Bullock’s Forest Mensuration class. / All photos courtesy of the University of Georgia

University of Georgia offers a unique forestry business program 

According to the Forestry Inventory and Analysis Database, Georgia has nearly 24.5 million acres of forested land. Of that, almost 89 percent is privately owned. With all that land to be managed, there are myriad careers in forestry for the business-minded. And students looking to pursue those careers are often naturally drawn to the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. 

Warnell began offering a Master of Forestry Resources (MFR) degree with a concentration in business in 1984. The program has since grown to include a specialized MFR in Forest Business Management. 

The MFR in Forest Business Management degree was developed when many of our students were graduating with a BS in Forest Resources and then getting an MBA,” says Joe. 

Two female students and their professor study their notes in the forest
Assistant Professor Joe Conrad explains point sampling to students. The practice is used to take a statistical sampling of the forest’s wood volume to then determine an estimate for the forest’s overall volume.

Forest Planning and Wood Identification Meets Finance and Accounting

Warnell’s MFR students take classes like accounting and finance at UGA’s renowned Terry College of Business as well as targeted electives like forest planning, forest products marketing, and practical wood identification.   

“The courses in forestry prepare the students to focus on the many aspects unique to forestry,” says Joe. “It also assures they meet the requirements to sit for the licensing exam to be a registered forester in Georgia.”

Students who graduate with an MFR in Forest Business can seamlessly enter the industry as analysts for timberland investment management organizations (TIMO) or REITs like Rayonier. Graduates have also gone on to find careers in consulting, lending, conservation, economic development and wood procurement. 

“Our students develop a very good understanding of land and timber markets,” says Joe. “They develop skills in financial analysis, communications, negotiations, and business ethics. They all get opportunities to meet leaders in TIMOs, REITs, and industry.”

For those students interested in pursuing research or teaching careers, Warnell offers MS and Ph.D degrees with a forestry focus. 

Young woman carrying LiDAR equipment in a research forest
Graduate student Allison Sheeks uses LiDAR in a stand of trees.

Who’s Right for a Master of Forestry Resources?

MFR in Forestry students come from a wide variety of undergraduate backgrounds. Joe has seen students enter with degrees in forestry, wildlife and fisheries, parks and recreation, and fire science and ecology as well as more general concentrations like business, engineering, real estate, psychology, and computer systems. Though, he notes, “students without forestry degrees are required to take additional courses in dendrology, silviculture, forest ecology, mensuration, and timber management.”  

Students with an aptitude for international business may also find a home in the forestry industry. 

Forestry is an increasingly global business. Wood and products made from wood are used domestically and internationally—and a large volume of products are exported from the Southeast United States. 

“All of this affects local landowners and markets,” says Joe. “We feel our students are in a better position to understand the cause-and-effect relationships to make better decisions.”

If you’re interested in getting started in a program or career in the forestry business, Joe recommends contacting businesses in the areas where you want to work. You can also check out Warnell online or reach out to faculty and staff.

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