Celebrating two women in forestry during Women’s History Month

Two women, Amanda Mahaffey and Barrie Brusila, who have been critical to the success of the Forest Stewards Guild, will be receiving awards in the near future for their outstanding work in forestry. The New England Society of American Foresters will share their own announcement and we don’t want to steal their flame. Instead, as we prepare to celebrate several individuals and their contributions to forestry and forestry programming, this article takes a closer look at how, not surprisingly, these women are both Guild members and have shared values that prove essential for our world.

Question: Amanda, you are currently Deputy Director of the Forest Stewards Guild. Tell us about how you got here. Specifically, what are the personal values and experiences that led you to this point?

Response: When I was a forestry student, I took the summer between the two years of the master’s program to create my own internship. I have been an avid supporter of Guild internship opportunities ever since. I was fortunate to spend half the summer tagging along with Bruce Spencer, then the chief forester at Massachusetts’ Quabbin Reservoir, who taught me how to paint trees with thoughtfulness behind each decision for the site, silviculture, regeneration, logging equipment, and watershed protection. Bruce introduced me to friends of his through the Guild in Maine, and I happily spent the remainder of the summer tagging along with them and learning about boots-on-the-ground forestry from a variety of wonderful, insightful foresters. 

Question: Amanda, you’ve said that Barrie’s mentorship was instrumental in shaping your career. How so?

Response: Barrie was one of the first people Bruce introduced me to, and I’m happy to say that we’ve been friends ever since. Barrie doesn’t discriminate for man, woman, or dog; anyone is welcome to put in a good day’s work and learn from her in the field. Through the years of our friendship, I’ve come to appreciate Barrie’s dedication to educating the public, bringing new foresters into the fold, and putting the forest first in the face of the many challenges for forest managers in Maine. Barrie and many other strong women are inspirations to me.

Question: Barrie, you are a founding member of the Forest Stewards Guild. Tell us more about what inspired you to work with others to create this community of forest professionals.

Response: I have always had a desire to work with colleagues who share similar ethics and values. The Guild gives us the collective voice and platform to share our knowledge, skills, and advocacy with the wider world. I enjoy spending time with and learning from other on-the ground foresters with paint on their boots.

Question: Barrie, you’ve said before that you are pleased to see younger people and the diversity of interests and skills they bring to the forest. Tell us how you have helped support the next generation of stewards throughout your career.

Response: I’ve presented to and led woods tours for many groups of young people over the years. I always encourage them to consider forestry as a career, especially the girls and young women. Students have job shadowed with me. A recent forestry graduate is now interning with me, working towards earning her forestry license here in Maine. I’m very proud of the 3 accomplished foresters who I encouraged at the beginning of their careers, Amanda being one of them! 

Question: Amanda and Barrie, we are facing lots of unknowns in today’s world of climate change impacts, invasive species spread, and polarizing policies. What do you say to those working in forestry and other natural resources fields about how to proceed?

Responses: I say, go for it! Don’t be afraid to try something. The uncertainty of climate change and the political climate can be debilitating. Our duty as foresters is to try to make decisions grounded in science and reality and do what we can to leave options for the landowner and for the next forester for years to come.  – Amanda

I think a lot about creating resiliency in the forests I manage. Encouraging a diversity of native tree, shrub, and herbaceous species, tree sizes, and ages are always goals. Controlling invasive species is a steady and increasing job. Managing our forests sustainably and using wood products locally are certainly not new objectives, but they’re worth repeating and supporting with public policies.  -Barrie

Thank you both for your time, and for all you do for our forests.