Orleans County now has its own forester

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Orleans County Forester Jared Nunery on his first day on the job that was reinstated this year as a full-time position.  Photo by Paul Lefebvre
Orleans County Forester Jared Nunery on his first day on the job that was reinstated this year as a full-time position. Photo by Paul Lefebvre

copyright the chronicle December 4, 2013

by Paul Lefebvre

Not many young professionals would welcome a reporter’s questions on the first day of a new job.  But that’s where Jared Nunery found himself Monday, roughly six hours into the role as the new county forester for Orleans County.

“My goal is to be the best resource I can for the county,” said Mr. Nunery, who comes to the job with a degree in forestry from the University of Vermont.

A native of Freeport, Maine, Mr. Nunery has worked in a variety of forestry related fields that have taken him to places like Alaska and Montana — states whose land mass and wilderness dwarf that of Vermont.

In Montana he even had a job that many professionals in the outdoor world would trade their firstborn for — the reintroduction of wolves into a state known for big game such as elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions.

Not Mr. Nunery, who found counting wolves “incredibly boring.”

What he wanted instead was an opportunity to work with the environment where these animals live:  the woods.

“That’s what drew me back to Vermont and a degree in forestry,” said Mr. Nunery, who did his undergraduate work in biology.

In assuming the role of county forester, Mr. Nunery steps into a position that Commissioner Michael Snyder of Forests, Parks and Recreation successfully reinstated by gaining an appropriation from the Legislature last winter.

Since the death of George Buzzell, the forest needs of Orleans County landowners have been served by Lamoille County Forester Ray Toolan, who clearly has been working to get Mr. Nunery off on the right track.

Without any prompting, the new man said that as of last week there were 845 landowners from the county enrolled in the state’s current use program.  Managed by county foresters, the program provides a tax incentive for property owners to keep their land open and in production.

Mr. Nunery was quick to credit Mr. Toolan for providing the kind of on-the-job training he will need to administer the program and help those from the county who are eligible to participate in it.  It’s the kind of work that evidently attracted him to the position.

“Your job is just to go out there and help people manage their land,” he said, adding that one of the most important skills of a county forester is the ability to listen to and communicate with people.

“Ray had done a great job,” he said, speaking of Mr. Toolan’s ability to identify the interests of a variety of stakeholders, both private and non-profit, and use his professional skills to help them.

If Mr. Toolan had a lesson in mind, it appears to have stuck.

Mr. Nunery said that what’s most important for a county forester is to know the landowner’s objective in owning, say, a woodlot.  Landowners come in all sizes and shapes; some know what they want, while for others it’s a new experience.

And to those newcomers, Mr. Nunery said he hopes to show how they can feel a connection to the land.  Or how their actions can change the land.

As the county’s new forester, Mr. Nunery will continue to work out of the St. Johnsbury regional office for the state Agency of Natural Resources, where he has been employed as a state forester for the last 18 months or so.

In that capacity, he has worked all over the Northeast Kingdom, an area he characterized as the closest Vermont has to a wilderness.  Because of nutrients in the soil, trees are shorter in the Northeast Kingdom than they are elsewhere in the state, he said.

As a resident of Hyde Park — where he lives with his wife and a six-month-old son — he said he will be in easy commuting distance to landowners in the Missisquoi River Valley.

To listen to Mr. Nunery is to hear someone who is doing something he likes to do and still unable to believe he is getting paid to do it.  For one thing, he is not trying to convince anyone how they should manage their land.  Secondly, it’s a challenge to follow in the footstep of past county foresters like Ray Toolan and George Buzzell, professionals with big shoes to fill.  And thirdly being a county forester appears to be more of lifestyle than a job.

“You’re outside all day doing inventory out in the middle of nowhere,” he said.  “You can’t tell the difference between a Saturday and a Tuesday because you’re doing the same thing.”

For Mr. Nunery it all comes down to taking a walk in the woods.  It’s what drives him, he said.

contact Paul Lefebvre at [email protected]

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