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A Day in the Life of a Tree Marker

Posted: November 24, 2017

by Anthony Hobbs

The following story appeared in the most recent edition of Our Forest, Forests Ontario’s quarterly magazine. The full print edition is sent to all Forests Ontario members and includes stories related to forests and forestry from across Canada.

If you’re interested in receiving Our Forest, become a member of Forests Ontario. Your membership also supports our tree planting and education programs. Learn more here

You can also learn more about the Ontario Tree Marker Program here. 

When I started in forestry, I was often asked, “What do you do?”

“Well, I tree mark!”

View from the top in Algonquin Park. All images provided by author.

That was usually followed by a puzzled look and the follow-up question, “But what do you actually do?” Well, tree markers are charged determining whether you should cut or retain each individual tree in a stand. This was the start of many conversations about forestry and would allow me to explain why this is a good thing that supported regeneration of the forest and allowed for access to raw materials.

My first job in forestry was tree marking for Algonquin Forestry Authority. Living in camps in Algonquin Park cut off from the rest of the world, apart from colleagues and the occasional canoe enthusiast passing by a portage route, was right up my alley. I was gone for the week and back to “civilization” for the weekend.

Once our supplies were packed for the day, we’d get as close as we could to our destination by truck, ATV, or snowmobile. Finding the harvest block by map, compass, and GPS is where I gained most of my navigation skills.

The planning for the day is done in the truck so everyone knew what color paint to load in their cruising vest. The first order of business was completing Areas of Concern (AOC) and harvest boundaries. These are the areas that won’t be harvested. Identifying them ahead of time saves tree markers from having to re-mark, which is the absolute worst.

AOC’s are identified as having a value that may be affected by any forest management activities, including marking and harvesting. These values might include habitat, protection for uses by Aboriginal communities, or lakes and streams.

Each AOC therefore has a different reserve that needs to be applied to protect those values, which may include a prohibition on

White birch trees marked canoe would be harvested and made into traditional canoes by Algonquins.

marking and harvesting, so the marker doing layout needs to know how to identify and treat them appropriately. Once we identify the water features and mapped values protected with their own specific reserve, the crew begins marking the forest that will be harvested.

This is usually when you find the unmapped forest values like hawk nests or bear dens which are reported and protected. As a

tree marker, you’re responsible for looking at every square inch of a forest pre-harvest and are usually the first person to be there in years, so you get to see some very unique things and experience some views that are second to none.

After completing the tree marking course I knew it was an important part of forestry, but it wasn’t until I was involved in other aspects like site prep layout, harvest supervision and regeneration assessments that I truly

understood how important tree marking was. In my current role at the County of Renfrew, I’m fortunate to see the process from start to finish, which made me realize that what you do as a tree marker affects every operation that occurs afterwards, including regeneration.

Every job has ups and downs.  A bad day tree marking will test your limits. When the bugs are at their peak and the brush is thick and covered in water, you wonder what on Earth you’re doing there, but when you find yourself marking through a hardwood forest on a cool fall morning, you wonder how you’re even getting paid for this.

Between stumbling on the elusive moose in wetlands, daily winter lunch fires, the camaraderie between fellow tree markers, and the many surprises you discover, the ups greatly outweigh the downs.

Anthony Hobbs is the Forestry & Trails Technician at the County of Renfrew with 10 years of experience in forestry, from tree marking to renewal operations.