Professional Profile

Nathan Dru John Risher
Nathan McClure Dru Preston John Sunday Risher Willard


The titles of the Georgia Forestry Commission's business units provide plain definitions of their functions. "Reforestation" is the department devoted to the growth of premium trees, from germination to seedling to planting stock. "Protection" provides resources that ensure Georgians and their property remain safe from the ravages of wildfire. "Management" is all about the programs and techniques that help deliver the best results from forest land. The GFC department that is integral in binding the others for maximum results is known as "Forest Utilization."

Utilization staff members assist business and forest landowners by providing detailed information about Georgia's rich forestry resource and promoting it to potential and current customers. They help sustain the economic viability of forest land ownership in Georgia by marketing its forest resources to attract new industries; providing marketing, technical and forest resource procurement support to existing industries; and establishing new product development and markets for the state's forests.

"Utilization ties it all together," said Utilization Staff Forester Risher Willard. "Utilization is all about maximizing markets and protecting the forestry resource so it's used in a sustainable way."

To help Georgia landowners find markets for timberland, the Utilization Department continuously provides valuable data about the state's forestry resource. One important tool is the Forest Inventory and Analysis, which is an annual calculation of the state's forest composition, sustainability and other key statistics, compiled by the GFC and US Forest Service. Another is the Georgia Wood-Using Industries Directory, published biannually. It provides locations and information about the many companies in the state that utilize timber for traditional and emerging markets. A study is also commissioned annually on the economic impacts of Georgia's forest industry through the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"Companies call us when they want wood," said Nathan McClure, Chief of the GFC Forest Utilization Department. "We make the connections within the industry and the state's wood supply chain. Our goals are to facilitate the development of new types of wood products and new markets, and to ensure that the forest resource remains sustainable," McClure said.

Bioenergy is one of those new markets. While liquid fuel from biomass was the industry's focus a few years ago, the wood pellet market has since captured the spotlight. McClure and his colleagues in Utilization have been instrumental in leading European companies to the best locations in Georgia for a sustainable supply of lower value pulpwood and wood residues from sawmills. Wood pellets are used in the production of electricity, and nine pellet mills have been established in Georgia since 2007.

Utilization Staff Forester Dru Preston reaches stakeholders and potential customers through frequent trade shows, landowner workshops and other outreach opportunities. Preston also leads the GFC effort to educate members of the wood supply chain, from landowner to mill manager, about forest certification and certified wood products.

"I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing results of our work," he said. "Seeing new industries develop and knowing that our efforts may have helped develop some of them is rewarding. I enjoy promoting the state and telling people why Georgia is a good place to do forestry business," Preston said.

Utilization Staff Forester John Sunday echoes those sentiments. He recently returned from a trade mission to Japan, where he got a close look at the country's wood utilization trends and promoted Georgia's forestry resource. But Sunday is just as likely to be working with folks on Georgia soil, and that's the way he likes it.

"There's never a typical day," Sunday said.

One of Sunday's specialties is helping landowners understand and utilize their forest land's carbon sequestration and ecosystem services.

"We provide a lot of information that helps landowners understand their investment," said Sunday. "They may think mostly in terms of harvesting and the cost of planting, but there are other opportunities. We have a lot of growth/yield modeling and financial calculations to determine how a landowner can maximize opportunities on their property," he said. "When I can prove that their forestry investment is worthwhile and competes with their other options, I feel like I'm doing a good job."

For details about the many services and resources of the Georgia Forestry Commission's Utilization Department, visit GaTrees.org/Forest Utilization.



by Stasia Kelly, GFC Writer

                                                   Professional Profile highlights GFC's workforce and the variety of services they provide to Georgia.