Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, Inc.

Feb 2016

Then and Now:  Forestry Apps

In this month’s issue of TPA, some focus is directed toward the old CCC days.  Back in 1933 when the CCC was getting started, the only “application” anyone talked about was applying iron will and hard work.  We owe so many forests and parks to the CCC boys.  So much has changed since then.  Technology has been improving and increasing in our lives exponentially and it seems that true grit is fleeting our culture at about the same rate as the increase in reliance on our smart phones and their applications, or “apps” for short.  But are the apps to blame?  I don’t thinks so.  Just imagine what we could accomplish if we were to combine the “can do” attitude of the CCC camps with the technology of today!

We have reached the age where nearly everyone has a smartphone or tablet within reach every moment of every day.  App designers are making millions by coming up with ways to entertain us, educate us, make us more productive, or completely UN-productive.  In everything we do, “there’s an app for that” (a phrase trademarked by Apple). 

In recent years, the app craze has become more prominent in our industry.  One of the leaders in developing forestry apps is SilviaTerra.  Their first product, TimberScout was designed to quantify variation and changes in forests.  Nice information to know, but a very narrow scope in a broad industry.  Their next product, PlotHound, really caught the attention of foresters and loggers by providing a platform to better measure and keep track of forest inventory.

Other apps are wonderful mapping resources.  In 2015, I was introduced to onxmaps Hunt, which is like having every county’s GIS information all in one place and in the same format.  Although the word “hunt” is part of the name, it can be used to identify land ownership, access, forest, wetland and soil data…and yes, it’s great for planning hunting trips as well!

Some apps are free, like Avenza pdf maps, others can be purchased for a one-time payment, and some, like onxmaps Hunt, require an annual subscription.  One thing I’ve found with apps, like about everything else, you get what you pay for!  (Hey, didn’t we just talk about that a few months ago?)

So what do you need an app for?  Some provide location services for navigation, or location tracking for those working alone and possibly finding themselves in an emergency situation. Compass apps, weather alerts, GPS navigation and business / service location search and navigation apps usually come standard with your smart phone, or can easily be found for free. 

Need to know how to find a tool to help with a task, or find one you didn’t even know you needed?  To find relevant apps, simply tap on the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for most all other smart phones and tablets.  “App Store” and “Google Play” are simply apps for finding apps!  Once you’re in, select the search tool and simply type in a key word for the subject you need help with.  Key words like GIS / GPS, Tree I.D., Dendrology, Forestry, Timber, Logging, Wildlife, Maps, can get you on the right track to browse for the apps that are right for you.

Once purchased, and downloaded, learning the app is nearly as easy.  Most folks just choose to play around with it and learn by trial and error.  For those wanting to be more meticulous, most apps have instructions and tutorial exercises to familiarize the new user with all the capabilities of the app.  The possibilities are endless!

So what to do if you can’t find an app to help with a specific task or in a particular way?  Build what you need!  App generators are available online to help you create an app for your toolbox.  Who knows, if you need a particular app, others in your field probably do as well!  You might just create an app that can be sold, and generate income every time someone “logs on”…get it!  Speaking of logging on, here’s hoping your ground conditions are favorable, production is high and break downs are few. 


Ben Parsons, FISTA Training Coordinator, is originally from West “By God”, Virginia as they say in that part of the Appalachian Mountains. His family’s deeply rooted philosophy of living off the land was monumental in deciding to earn a degree in Forest Management from West Virginia University.  Throughout his career, Ben has had the opportunity to tackle a wide variety of assignments.  He measured Forest Inventory and Analysis research plots in Virginia and Georgia, been involved with urban and utility forestry operations throughout the Appalachian region, procured lowland hardwood timber in the swamps of South Georgia, managed logging contracts and harvest operations in Arkansas and specialized in water quality and harvest planning as well as fighting forest fires in Virginia. As FISTA Training Coordinator, helping to meet your safety and educational needs is the number one priority here at FISTA.  For more information, contact Ben at 800-551-2656 or

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