Picture by Julian Geisel
Julian recently graduated from Oregon State University with an MS in Forest Ecosystems and Society and an MS in Wood Science and Engineering. He conducted his research investigating strategies for generating income and structural diversity in small forests in 5 counties of Central Western Oregon. During the IUFRO 125 Anniversary Congress, Julian told the Tree News why he decided against a likely job as technical head of a forest botanical garden and chose instead to manage a forest for a small community in the German federal state Sachsen-Anhalt.
How come that you moved to the village of Sieben Linden to become manager of a 70 ha small-scale community forest?
Through my research I learned a lot about small forest management and became very passionate about the topic. Having the chance to practically apply some of the techniques I observed during my research sounded very appealing to me. I learned about the community through my wife, a dance teacher, who had lead workshops in the seminar center in Sieben Linden. She told a community member about my work in Oregon and the community was interested in meeting me to discuss opportunities for my involvement in the management of their forest. I spent two days working with the forest team, we clicked, they offered me a job. It was not an easy decision, since I will remain on the minimum wage-level after three years of studying. However, I feel really drawn to this opportunity. I have a good feeling because I can really sense that these people are interested in my expertise and open to experimenting with alternative practices. Sieben Linden is a small community (100 adults and 40 kids) and very proactive when it comes to eco-conscious living. They are sixty percent self-sufficient with food and have some projects going on in the realm of waste use and building solutions. Plus, life is simple there. My wife and I decided to give it a try, since we did not have the opportunity to spend much time together during my studies in the United States and this opportunity enables us to try something completely different together. However, we are also fully aware that this plan ultimately stands and falls with our compatibility with the community. I have signed the contract until next March and then we will assess our situation again.
What are main areas you will be working with in your new job?
In the long-term the community would like to be fully self-reliant with firewood. However, in its current form, the forest does not lend itself very well to firewood, as it is mainly composed of mature pine trees, whose size inhibits the community from applying sensitive forms of harvesting (they currently rely on horse logging). Also, the plan is thus to slowly convert the forest from pine to broadleaf tress. Cutting firewood, and tending those new stands will thus be a major task, along with finding solutions for sensitive harvesting of mature trees. Adding a log arch might be one solution here. I will have to assess that once I start the job in October.
Do you feel that your ideas resonate with the visions of the community?
Yes, I think so. But I am also fully aware that some of my ideas might be met with resistance. For example, their horses are not the youngest ones and I do think that at some point it would really be more feasible to switch to an ATV to pull the logs. We will see whether they like the plan or not. So there will likely be situations where I have to confront their visions with practical solutions.
What are your long-term visions with this new position?
It is a 25-hour position, which I have deliberately chosen in order to devote some time to publishing my MS research. My dream would be to stay in touch with research institutions in order to link my practical work in small forests with the collection of data. Plus I could continue to be part of IFSA and IUFRO. Pursuing my doctoral studies in the area of small scale forestry is something I can definitely see myself doing in the longer term.
Julian can be contacted at Julian@smallforests.com
The author, Meike Siegner, studies at the University of British Columbia and can be contacted under meike.siegner.ifsa(a)gmail.com