Posted on June 07 2019
We now know that forests are essential for our planet and life on it. The continued existence and protection of forests is therefore a major concern. How do forests and people function side by side? For this we asked a person who probably knows the forest best: the forester. We are very happy that we were able to ask these and other questions to a Swiss forester, Peter Piller.
Peter Piller is 36 years old and comes from Plaffeien (FR). He works in the forest district Rüschegg- Nord (BE), where he runs a forestry business with eight employees. As one of the most beautiful moments in his career, Peter remembers the two encounters with the lynx from a short distance. "A beautiful animal," he adds.
Why did you become a forester?
Peter:Already as a small boy I worked with my father in the forest. The forest has always fascinated me, be it my hobbies or working with a chainsaw. After a trial apprenticeship, it was immediately clear to me which path I would take.
What do you like most about your job?
Clearly the work in nature and the variety that this profession brings with it. The long-term and sustainable thinking, which is probably in no other profession as much in demand as with us in the forest.
What are the tasks of a forester?
The profession is very multifaceted and the forester is a generalist. It depends very much on which region you work in and how the forestry operation is organised.
My main tasks in Rüschegg are advising the forest owners, marking the trees to be cut, planning logging and planting, maintaining the infrastructure (forest roads, etc.), selling timber and managing the forest operation with eight employees.
What difficulties do you experience in your job?
To reconcile the different demands on the forest and to find the best solution. The population and authorities often lack an understanding of forest management.
Forest personnel plan at least two generations in advance. In order to have a permanent forest that fulfils its functions, we must and may cut down trees. With the wood of these trees we harvest the only renewable raw material in Switzerland. With the sustainable forestry that we operate in Switzerland, we are doing something very positive for the forest and producing a CO2-neutral building material.
The price of roundwood in Switzerland is very low, but two thirds of the required wood is imported from abroad. It is very difficult to run the forest business profitably.
To what extent do foresters do something good for the environment by cutting down trees?
The cut trees give us the renewable and CO2-neutral raw material wood. It makes sense to harvest wood sustainably in our forests in order to prevent wood from being transported halfway around the world or the primeval forests and tropical forests being cleared.
By cutting down trees, we create space for younger trees and bring light to the ground. We try to promote mixing by helping rare tree and shrub species.
By harvesting trees, we strengthen stand stability and promote biodiversity.
What challenges does the Swiss forest face?
The pressure exerted by the population on the forest, its inhabitants and forest owners is constantly increasing. It is impossible to meet all the demands of bikers, horsemen, dogs, hikers, etc. A big challenge is to inform the population that every forest has an owner and that we are doing something very important and good for the forest functions.
Do you feel the effects of climate change on the forest?
We have noticed that the tree line is moving upwards. The tree species are shifting. Certain tree species, such as spruce, struggle with drought. They are susceptible to bark beetles and other parasites.
What are the most common tree parasites in the Swiss forest and what about invasive species?
In my district, the bark beetle is the worst parasite. With wood or Christmas trees that are imported into Switzerland, invasive parasites that we did not yet know come to us.
What measures does a forester take against tree attack? Can an infested tree be saved?
It is no longer possible to save a tree infested by a bark beetle. You can, however, combat the spread of the beetle by cutting down the infested tree immediately and transporting it out of the forest. If this is not possible, the tree can also be debarked so that the larvae dry out.
What do you want to give to people who don't know much about your profession?
I recommend to inform oneself before leaving out hurtful criticism about forest cultivation. The forestry staff think in very long cycles. Often the forest doesn't look nice for the average citizen after an intervention. Only after a few years do the positive effects become apparent.
We at NIKIN would like to thank Peter Piller once again for his openness.
The profession of a forester is indispensable for the functioning of the forest ecosystem, whereby the goal of the various tasks always lies in sustainability. Whether in the use of native wood or in the construction of a permanent forest. Therefore, we hope that the professional group of foresters will receive more appreciation and gratitude. After all, we all benefit from our local forest.