Which Woodlot Professional Do I Need?

You can do-it-yourself a lot in your woods, but for the really big stuff, like harvesting timber, it’s useful to get professional help. But how do you decide which professionals to use?

When talking trees, you’ll see three job titles most often: forester, logger and arborist. These titles might sound similar, but they have very different educational backgrounds, skills and services.

Arborists specialize in individual tree care, often in urban or suburban settings. They routinely have to climb trees and bring them down in parts to avoid hitting powerlines, buildings and other obstacles.


Arborists focus on individual trees like those in your lawn, which is why you’ll often see them described as “tree care” or “tree service” professionals. If you’re having the maple in your backyard pruned, you’re most likely hiring an arborist to do that work.

For projects in your woods, though, arborists generally won’t be your first choice.


What’s the difference between foresters and loggers? Say you’re having a house built. An architect draws up the plans for what the house should look like. Then the construction team uses those plans to build the house you want.

Foresters are like architects for the woods. College-trained, usually with a bachelor’s degree in forestry, foresters develop a plan for how to care for each section of woods on your land. They base that plan on what you own and what you want. Do you want to grow high-value timber? Do you want to attract certain species of wildlife? Maybe you have a mix of things you’d like to see and do in your woods. Foresters have the knowledge to work with what your land has to move it toward what you’d like it to be. If that plan includes harvesting timber, your forester will oversee the sale, helping attract reputable buyers and then making sure the terms of the sale contract are carried out.

logger removing a tree
Loggers focus on the safe, efficient removal of trees from the woods. If you’re having a professional do on-the-ground work in your woods, a logger is likely who you would need.


If foresters are the architects, loggers are the construction team. They’re the boots on the ground carrying out the plan you and your forester developed. Their focus is on safe, efficient removal of trees from your woods. They’re also the ones usually doing any trail work needed as part of a timber harvest, such as installing best management practices to keep trails stable and protect streams.

So how do you find these professionals? For arborists, the International Society of Arboriculture maintains a searchable database. For foresters there’s no single list, but states often have their own lists of qualified professionals. In my book “Backyard Woodland,” I include links to forester lists by state as well as tips on how to choose a forester who will work well with you. Finally, when it comes to loggers, look for those with third-party certification. In New York State, the certification is “Trained Logger Certified.” Different states have their own programs. Regardless of your location, though, certified loggers will have taken time to get continuing education in safety and environmental stewardship. By working with them, you’re more likely to get a higher quality professional and a better result when harvesting timber.