The Consultant - 2008 - (Page 47)
Forester Licensing: Not Worth the Effort
BY JERRY WITLER, ACF
CF and its members regularly deal with issues such as the regulation of forestry practices, fair taxation of forestland, and management of our public lands. These issues are vital to the effective management of the nation’s forests and to the efficient delivery of necessary services. They require our attention. Forester licensing does not. In expressing my doubts about licensing, I speak only for myself and from my experience in Oregon, where I have practiced as a consulting forester for 22 years. The last time that I checked, 16 states had some form of forester licensing or registration. Many of these programs are considered to be quite successful. However, in Oregon, foresters are not licensed or registered, and anyone can claim the title. Anyone can perform the typical duties of a forester, subject only to the general statutes relating to fraud or misrepresentation. Certainly, many of us are aware of misdeeds by foresters or by those who call themselves foresters. A few years ago, in verifying the sale of a large timberland tract for an appraisal, I asked the seller if she had used the services of a forester to help establish the sale price. She informed me that all foresters are “crooks” and that she had relied only upon the advice of a local real estate agent. (Fortunately, I had identified myself to her as a timberland appraiser rather than as a forester.) Despite such experiences, I do not hear a public clamor for forester licensing. Even those in the public who may be considered antiforestry are not calling for licensing. The call generally comes from foresters.
THE CONSULTANT 2008
The only justifiable reason for licensing is to protect the health, safety or financial well-being of the public. In Oregon, we have forest practices and other laws that deal with environmental protection and other health and safety issues. Everyone, including non-foresters, is subject to them. In my experience, I have not seen significant violations of these laws by those who are unqualified or unscrupulous. The most common problems are financial; the landowner is cheated by the incompetent or dishonest practitioner. To the extent that these malpractices fall short of fraud, the public is not protected. However, my general philosophy is that the potential purchaser of our services has to take some responsibility for finding a competent, honest forester. We, as ACF members dedicated to the free enterprise system, know that government action, including the licensing of foresters, cannot solve every problem. Furthermore, the possibility that licensing will enhance the stature of foresters is not a justification for licensing. Greater stature does
not equate to more protection for the public. The path to licensing can be difficult and dangerous. Some recent attempts to implement licensing have been opposed by industry and other groups. Foresters who support licensing have spent many hours and resources in the effort and often have been thwarted. For example, licensing laws backed by ACF members in the state of Washington failed to pass the Legislature in the last few years. Supporters of licensing also face the possibility that the bill that emerges from the Legislature may not resemble the one that was introduced. Groups with goals different from ours may hijack the process. Many will cite the California experience as an example of this peril. In addition, if licensing is implemented, the few who are incompetent or dishonest will attempt to circumvent the law anyway. The rest of us will incur added time and expense in obtaining and maintaining a license. ACF and its members strongly endorse the free enterprise system. In the long run, the market will weed out the poor practitioners. ACF members succeed because we provide better service than our competitors. We do not need to be licensed to prove it. ACF is a small organization, and we all work for small companies. Our limited time and resources should be used to promote the ACF designation as the standard of excellence in forestry rather than to pursue a credential with limited value. l Jerry Witler, ACF, works with Northwest Forestry Services in Tigard, Oregon.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Consultant - 2008
Executive Director’s Message Mapping the Future of ACF
President’s Message ACF Celebrates 60 Years
Professional Forestry Education: The Present, from a Texas Perspective
The Future of Forestry Education: Will We Prepare Relics or Icons?
Forestry and Consulting: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Carbon – A Forestry Opportunity?
Advocacy – Its Benefits May Come With Frustrations
Katrina Top 10: Public Policy Advocacy Lessons Learned After Hurricane Disaster
‘Mighty Giants’ Details Rich History of American Chestnut Tree
The Cost of Breaking in New Employees
Hiring Practices: Questions You Shouldn’t Ask a Job Applicant
Graduate Forestry Degrees and Consulting Forestry
Taxation and Land Devaluation: An Examination of the Tax Burden on Non-industrial Private Landowners
Forester Licensing: Essential to Guarding the Forestry Profession
Forester Licensing: Not Worth the Effort
ACF Code of Ethics: Canon 15 What You Don’t Say or Do Can Hurt You
Philippe Morgan: European Forestry Consultant Extraordinaire
The Final Word: A Tale of Two Technologies
The Consultant - 2008