Clemson – Clemson University has formed the first student chapter of the Association of Consulting Forestry (ACF), an organization that has represented the consulting branch of forestry professions in the U.S. since 1948.

The Clemson Chapter of the Society of Consulting Forestes

(left to right, back) Dan Callaghan, secretary treasurer; Ben Match, organizing president;, Tim Schumann, vice president; Austin Phillips, president (left to right, front) Will Epting; Danny Thomas.

ACF members are required to allot at least 75% of their active work time to providing technical work for the public on a fee or contract instead of a regular full-time employer. In order to overcome this requirement so the new chapter could be established on Clemson’s campus, the organization created a new membership category.

“A new membership category was established, associate membership, intended for students who are currently enrolled in a professional forestry degree program. Essentially, this allowed for student chapters of the ACF at professional forestry schools. Clemson University was the first to jump on the bandwagon and just organized the first ACF student chapter,” said Thomas Straka, Clemson professor of forestry and environmental conservation.

Straka related the implementation of the ACF at a university to the job of forestry itself.

“Natural forests are great for any number of ecological reasons, but for top yield a forester will need to plant a few superior seedlings,” Straka said. The same goes for ACF. For top membership yield, the focus should be on planting some “superior seedlings” by developing a crop of student members.”

The ACF will provide management planning opportunities for Clemson’s Forest Resource Management Chapter “capstone” course to help students get a jump-start in the forestry consulting industry. The capstone course will give them valuable experience that most college-aged students could not receive at this stage in their professional development.

“In this field project, students develop management plans for ACF member client tracts. The students meet with the ACF forester, who explains the management planning process and provides landowner contact information. Next, the students meet with the landowner to obtain tract information and management objectives. Then the students do the field work and develop the plan,” Straka said.

Patrick Lee, president of the South Carolina chapter of the Association of Consulting Foresters.

Patrick Lee, president of the South Carolina chapter of the Association of Consulting Foresters.

Patrick Lee, President of the South Carolina ACF and Clemson graduate, visited the capstone class in January to give an overview of forest management planning.

“When I was about to graduate from Clemson, I couldn’t wait to start my forestry career. I only wished that back then, we had people come and talk to us about the different forestry professions that are waiting for you after graduation,” Lee said.

This student ACF chapter and capstone class will allow students the opportunity to develop relationships with fellow consulters, paving a path into an organization and industry that can be difficult to navigate without prior experience.

“Because ACF requires such a high level of consulting forestry experience, it is an ideal opportunity for students to get an understanding of what consulting will involve,” Straka said.

While the relationship between the state and inaugural student chapter is still developing, the student chapter executive board consisting of Dan Callaghan, Ben Match, Tim Schumann, and Austin Phillips, hopes to work closely with the state chapter.

“The South Carolina Chapter actively worked to welcome the students, and recent history shows there should continue to be a close interaction and relationship between the state chapter and its corresponding student chapter,” Straka said.