Dan Macmaster graduated from the Master of Sustainable Forest Management program at UBC Forestry. He is currently working as the Forestry Manager and Registered Professional Forester (RPF) for the Osoyoos Indian Band and West Boundary Community Forest.
What drew you to pursue the MSFM program at UBC Forestry, and how has it impacted your career?
I was a high school teacher for 15 years and really wanted to try something new in the forestry field. Being able to transfer from teaching to forestry through MSFM was perfect. The program recognized all the work that I’ve done in my “first career” and as a result, I did not have to start from scratch as I began my “second career” in forestry. MSFM gave me the opportunity to become an RPF and work in the forest industry in a very short time frame.
Can you share a pivotal moment or experience during your time in the program that significantly shaped your approach to sustainable forest management?
The 558 project linked me with a company called Vaagen Fibre Canada where I completed a modelling project on their private land. Vaagen hired me right after the program was done and I worked there for 10 years as a manager. Even though that mill has shut down, this job brought me lots of opportunities and solidified my place in this industry.
How do you believe forest management initiatives contribute to addressing contemporary environmental challenges, and what role do you see alumni from this program playing in such efforts?
All of our lands should be managed in one form or another. MSFM provided an understanding that collaboration and communication are critical to all forest management decisions. With over 250 MSFM’ers out there in the industry today, one would think we are making a solid impact! I run into MSFM students all the time in the industry and government.
In your opinion, what are some of the most pressing issues facing sustainable forest management today, and how can professionals in this field navigate and address these challenges?
Involving First Nations at the start of all decisions on the land base. Developing partnerships (as a First Nations forestry manager) with other licencees and stakeholders is critical. Professionals can navigate the challenges in our forest industry by being creative, using the skills that the MSFM program taught us, and directly work with the local entities that influence land management decisions.
Could you highlight a post-graduation project or initiative that reflects the skills and knowledge gained from the MSFM program?
I’d say that developing a forestry department from scratch at the Osoyoos Indian Band was based on the knowledge I received from MSFM. There was a strong focus in my program in 2012/13 that First Nations will be at the forefront of forestry decision-making in the years to come. Back then, FN did not have anywhere close to the presence in land managing decisions as that they do today. I made those connections early and was ahead of the curve for Indigenous relationships thanks to the direction of the program.
What advice would you offer to current students or individuals considering pursuing a similar path in sustainable forest management?
Go to every conference or convention you can. Network. Hand out business cards. Meet people in the industry. Don’t settle for a “pigeonhole” job at a major licencee when you can make a much bigger difference working for a community forest or First Nation. It’s not WHAT you know sometimes, but WHO you know. Don’t focus on high-end modeling and detailed policies – that is not what helps local rural communities and First Nations get employment and bring in revenue. Start at the ground level when you are making decisions and relationships, not at the 10,000 foot level where no one in the Interior BC small town knows or cares what you’re talking about. Understand First Nations forestry management and community forests because they are the future. You will be responsible for the livelihood of so many rural communities, so get out there and be great!