Forestry Technician: A Job with Many Opportunities

Young woman stands in the forest wearing a Forest Service uniform, utility vest and hard hat.

Meet Sonya Lucatero, a timber sales administrator on the Tahoe National Forest. (USDA Forest Service photo by Andrew Avitt)

Andrew Avitt
Pacific Southwest Region
July 18, 2023

The Forest Service is around 30,000 employees strong and requires a wide variety of professions to get the job done — to care for the land and serve people, that is.

There are foresters, rangeland management specialists, social scientists, visual information specialists, civil engineers, accountants, electricians, hydrologists, and so many others. But there is perhaps one job in the Forest Service more pervasive and variable than the rest… the forestry technician.

Forestry technicians serve as fire lookouts, support recreation, fight wildland fire, assess and manage forest health. And though these jobs vary greatly, they have one big similarity, plenty of work in the great outdoors.

A Great Benefit

Sonya Lucatero is one of many forestry technicians on the Tahoe National Forest.

“I grew up in Susanville, California, where the Lassen National Forest was just a two-minute walk. So, as I got older and tried to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, I really focused on being outside.”

That one career requirement eventually led Lucatero to the Forest Service where she works as a timber sales administrator.Sonya Lucatero and Chris Pennington timber sales administrators meet with a contractor in the forest

Sonya Lucatero and Chris Pennington, timber sales administrators on the Tahoe National Forest check in with a contractor. (USDA Forest Service photo by Andrew Avitt)

Every timber sale on a national forest follows a standard process. Adhering to federal, state and forest regulations an area is surveyed and prepared. Then a contract is drawn up outlining the specific work to be done — which trees will be harvested.

It’s during the implementation phase, when work begins to happen, that a timber sales administrator like Lucatero will step in to help guide the work. “It’s really about us working together to make sure that the contract is being realized on the ground.”

Although people often assume timber harvesting is detrimental to the health of forests, the way that the Forest Service and contractors work together coincides with beneficial outcomes, she said.

“The contracts awarded really depend on what the land needs,” said Lucatero. “Some of the typical goals we work towards on the Tahoe National Forest are specifically focused on removing hazard trees and restoring forest health.

“In the past few years, we’ve been hit pretty hard with wildfires, but we can reduce that risk by treating our land and reducing that fuel. That’s where contractors within the timber industry can be an important ally and where a timber sales administrator comes in to help get that work done.”Removal of hazard trees around Chapman Campground by large equipment

Removal of hazard trees around Chapman Campground on the Tahoe National Forest. (USDA Forest Service photo by Andrew Avitt)

That stride towards supporting forest health can be seen long before a contract is awarded. Lucatero works with Forest Service specialists to evaluate the needs of the land and how a proposed project might affect tree stands, soil, wildlife, recreation and water. “It may sound like a lot but it’s necessary,” said Lucatero.

“When we have our interdisciplinary team meetings the common goal is how do we treat the land so that future generations get to enjoy it as much as we did,” said Lucatero. “And now especially with a changing climate, we understand how important it is to work together to take care of our lands for the future.”

The Best Job in the Forest Service

You hear it a lot in the Forest Service, “I have the best job.” Lucatero admits that she thinks so too.

“I really do enjoy my job — the excitement of what will happen on any given day. You just don’t really know what you’re going to encounter in the woods and how plans will shift,” she said. “You never have the same day twice.”Timber sales administrators watch a hazard tree falling in the forest while wearing protective gear

Sonya Lucatero and Chris Pennington, timber sales administrators, watch from a safe distance as a hazard tree is harvested in the distance. (USDA Forest Service photo by Andrew Avitt)

There’s a lot to love about the job, she said. Plenty of time outdoors — up to 80% during the summer season. Ample opportunity to hike and see all the different parts of the forest, but for Lucatero, it’s the people she works with that she appreciates most.

“Working with the different specialists, they are very smart, very kind, and passionate people. And it’s really a privilege to get to work with people like that, to work together with that same common goal, to do what’s right by the land.

“And I think another thing about my job I really love is that I’m learning so much constantly. Just like the land, there’s no exact replica of one piece to another, no day is the same. It’s the variation, the people, and the opportunity to be outdoors that really makes this job great.”

Interested in becoming a Timber Sales Administrator or to learn more about other Forestry Technician positions, please visit the Forest Service website.

The Forest Service is recruiting for hundreds of forestry technician (0462) positions throughout the agency. Applications are available through USAJOBS.