Lillian Hogan, Landowner and Forester Success Manager, had the pleasure of connecting with Shavonne Sargent, Consulting Forester, and Principal at SilvaSaunterra, LLC as part of NCX’s Consulting Forester Spotlight series. Shavonne shares how she got started in forestry, trends she’s seen take shape in the industry, how her work empowers landowners and looking ahead, what she’s most excited about unfolding as she looks to the future.
Continue reading to learn more about Shavonne, what’s influenced her career path, and the impact she’s had on the industry.
When did you know you wanted a career in forestry?
For me, it all started with the sugar maple. My high school had a small maple sugaring operation. During the first season I participated in sugaring, I discovered my love of trees. I immersed myself in tree identification and learned everything I could about maple sugaring – to the point I became the project instructor my Junior and Senior years.
When it came time to apply for college, someone said, “You should become a forester.” So I looked for what I thought would be the closest college major to becoming a forester. I ended up getting a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources at Cornell University. I considered staying at Cornell to pursue a Master’s in Education and spoke with an advisor about the program.
They asked a crucial question that shaped the trajectory of my career. “Do you love education, or do you love forestry so much that you enjoy educating people about it?” The answer was the latter, and so I went on to a Master of Forestry program at the University of Maine. My interest in forestry has always been matched with a desire to share forestry with others, which is probably why consulting was an immediate draw for me.
Is there anything in particular that influenced that decision?
I didn’t have much exposure to forestry as a child, but my parents loved to travel and spend time outdoors. We frequently went hiking and explored National Parks growing up. Hours of free outdoor play were part of my childhood; summiting Mount Washington in New Hampshire was a family rite of passage. My personal affinity for the woods was given ample opportunity to blossom. I was fortunate to discover a burning passion during high school, nurture it through higher education, and go on to practice it as a career.
How long have you been a forester and in what ways has the forestry industry changed over the years?
I’ve been a forester for 14 years; half of those years as a private consultant (first in New England, and now here in Oregon) and half working for Weyerhaeuser Company in both the corporate office and field operations. I’ve gotten to work in all aspects of triad forestry – intensive, extensive, and reserves – and believe we need all three types of management on the landscape to meet the challenges presented by multiple environmental crises.
Over the course of my career, I’ve witnessed the impact scientific research has had on public policy. In the forest sector, we are seeing this shift in public awareness around climate change and currently navigating how to communicate the benefits of forests and approaches to management that are already underway. As foresters, we tailor practices to reflect best available science and what’s being asked of us by society. Facing the reality of our global situation and navigating the public response is pushing industry innovation to make the current economic structure work for better outcomes.
Coming out of grad school, my interest in small landowners and Extension services directed me to follow trends in family forestland ownership. One of the biggest changes being discussed when I graduated was the generational shift in ownership – essentially, who will inherit/own small forestland once these older owners pass on? We are still in the midst of that wave, and over half of my clients are those new owners. They express a desire, overwhelmingly, to “do the right thing” and have different visions for what that looks like on their property. They are aware of the bigger picture, which includes climate change, species and habitat loss, and resource degradation, and I address these at the scale of their ownership and present them with options as outlined in their forest management plans. Often they are looking to manage to a less intense timber harvest schedule than what is typical of even-age Douglas-fir management in the Pacific Northwest. It is expensive to hold high-value timberland and they want to find alternate revenue streams to support that choice. For those who plan to harvest but could be persuaded to wait, NCX is a good fit.
As I think about other changes in forestry, I have noticed more clients choosing resource professionals who reflect their desire to “do the right thing.” My natural tendency – which I call ‘sauntering’– is to wrestle with science and philosophy that informs what is “right” or “good.” I appreciate joining clients on their journey to define what that means for them in the context of our broader environmental challenges. Participating in carbon markets allows landowners to connect specific action on their land with a recognized “good” for our planet and see their relatively small property as part of a global effort.
Are you a landowner yourself and if so, what’s the history of your land?
I own 0.19 acres of what was historically oak savanna within the homeland of the Kalapuya people in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. I loosely practice permaculture and have planted around 40 native plants in addition to fruits and an annual vegetable garden. My little patch of ground has paid surprisingly useful dividends in the woods as I assist landowners with restoration projects and know the attributes and growth habits of native plants beyond just trees.
What first brought you to NCX?
I talked with SilviaTerra representatives at an SAF meeting almost 10 years ago and have been tracking SilviaTerra, now NCX, ever since. I have been drawn to and always appreciated the innovative approach to forest management support tools produced by NCX. I utilize PlotHound to design cruises and collect data which can then be entered to stand compiling and growth software through Excel. When I was trying to figure out my cruise setup, I found PlotHound and thought, “Of course the business run by Millennials would design a program that works with the device I already own (my smartphone/tablet).” And now it makes sense that the same company has developed an approach to carbon markets that finally makes them accessible to family forestland owners of all sizes.
I am always looking for ways to provide my landowners with value from my services. Part of that has meant keeping up to date on non-traditional routes for payment, specifically understanding carbon markets and how they might work for this ownership type. This winter I got in touch with Lillian Hogan at NCX through my grad school colleague Spencer Meyer, and Lillian helped me understand the program so I could assist the first of my clients in offering Harvest Deferral Credits to the marketplace.
Looking ahead, what are you most excited about in the future?
I’m excited to see the evolution of natural capital markets. My entire career, the field of forestry has discussed and explored payments for ecosystem services, but there have never been accessible routes for smaller forestland owners. NCX is making this possible. It’s time for people who steward land to be compensated for the downstream benefits they provide for society that have always been taken for granted (clean water, clean air, open space, recreation, wildlife habitat, stored carbon). I’m excited to see the well-meaning forestland owner get paired with practical ways (beyond timber revenue) to get paid for their dedicated stewardship.
At NCX, we couldn’t agree more and truly value the expertise foresters provide clients, the industry, and the general public. Foresters like Shavonne whose hands-on approach to crafting management plans that align with their client’s objectives, experience in the field, and excitement about recognizing and compensating landowners for the natural capital on their land marries well with the work we’re doing at NCX to build and expand upon the Natural Capital Exchange. We’re thrilled to have an opportunity to work with more foresters. Together we transform the way forests are measured and valued.
Foresters looking for more information can visit our Consulting Forester Program page to learn more.