Moving from Burlington, Connecticut to Burlington, Vermont, Jon Lewis ’23 enrolled in the Forestry program at the University of Vermont (UVM). His successes in the classroom and in the field added up to a job offer from the U.S. Forest Service before his final semester began.

Jon grew up on Sawmill Road in northwestern Connecticut. Although a sawmill operated along his road and he hiked the woods of a nearby wildlife management area, a career in forestry was not yet on his radar.

Instead, after high school, he first headed to Bentley University in Massachusetts to major in finance. After a year there, he yearned for a major in which he could work outdoors, and he found it in Forestry.

Jon entered the UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources as a sophomore. His finance courses transferred to UVM and gave him enough credits for a concentration in Business. He also minored in Geospatial Technologies.

“A lot of professors consider geospatial technologies to be the most useful skills to have in natural resource fields,” said Jon. “I’ve used it in my courses and my jobs. Most forestry employers look for experience in geographic information systems or GIS.”

Once Jon got to know his faculty advisor, Professor Tony D’Amato who directs the Forestry program, Jon knew he had chosen the right major.

“Tony has been an amazing mentor and resource,” said Jon, who with Tony’s encouragement is now inducted into the Xi Sigma Pi National Forestry Honor Society. “If I’m curious about something in forestry, Tony will send me readings. He brings his forestry philosophy and silviculture expertise into the classroom and out on field labs and shows us how we can use forestry practices to generate different ecological and social benefits from the forest.”

As a teaching assistant for Tony’s silviculture course, Jon guided both undergraduate and master’s level students studying both forestry and wildlife biology.

“I learned just as much from the students as they learned from me,” said Jon. I re-learned what I had learned as a student, only better, and I got to be out in the woods again.”

After his sophomore year, Jon applied for a summer internship in Idaho. With just one year of a UVM Forestry education and a successful interview, he got offered the position with Potlatch Deltic, a private timber company that manages forests to produce wood products over many years. His first time in western conifer forests, Jon jumped boots first into on-the-ground forestry operations.

Jon Lewis in bright yellow vest stands among conifer seedlings in Idaho forest.

He assisted with timber sale, harvest unit, and logging road layouts, mapping, and inspections and made sure contractors followed Best Management Practices and fire restrictions. He conducted tree planting inspections and tree regeneration surveys. At the sawmill, he scaled logs to measure lengths and defects.

“You can’t get that level of experience just from courses,” said Jon. “The internship really broadened my forest knowledge. I now have western forestry experience and an eastern forestry education in two majorly different forest types.”

Although he learned a lot from his experience in private timber management, Jon resonated more with the public forestry style of land management, which he found in a summer job with the U.S. Forest Service, closer to home on Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest. As a forestry technician on a small crew in large northern hardwood stands, Jon interpreted and implemented silvicultural prescriptions. These planned treatments to meet forest management goals emphasized a mix of ecological, economic, and social objectives—right in Jon’s wheelhouse.

“I was able to directly apply what I learned in Tony’s silviculture course,” said Jon. “We did timber sale layouts with more ecological motivation than simply cutting for timber, and we balanced multiple forest uses like wildlife habitat and recreation.”

He used high-tech forestry tools to cruise timber—measuring tree heights, diameters, and percent wood defects—and to map timber sale boundary layouts. He marked trees for harvest and checked quality control plots to make sure the marked units met prescription guidelines. He helped to plant tree seedlings and assess natural and planted regeneration in forest stands. And he earned his certification in wildland firefighting.

“I learned so much on the job and through valuable back-and-forth forestry conversations with my crew members while in the woods,” said Jon, who received the Northeast Regional Scholarship from Xi Sigma Pi.

Jon joined the UVM Forestry Club, a student chapter of the Society of American Foresters (SAF), and earned his certification in chainsaw use and safety through the Game of Logging, one of many activities sponsored by the club. For his contributions to the forestry profession, Jon received the SAF Green Mountain Division James E. Wilkinson Jr. Student Award.

With his classmates and professors, he traveled to the SAF 2022 National Convention in Maryland, where he attended presentations on forestry topics and met with professionals and potential employers in the forestry field.

“Attending the SAF conference helped me to network with Forest Service employers,” said Jon, who applied for a silvicultural forester position on “At the meeting, I talked with someone from Region 4, the Intermountain regional office, who helped me get the job after I applied.”

The Forest Service hired Jon in December of his senior year. After graduation in May, he is excited to return to Idaho, this time as a public forester on the Payette National Forest, where he will practice silviculture and fire restoration work.


Shari Halik