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The Society of American Foresters is deeply and actively involved in the professional development of foresters and the field of forestry in the United States. The Society advocates professional credentialing of foresters.
The Society is the nationally recognized organization that, through an accreditation process, periodically reviews and evaluates college and university programs for the teaching of professional forestry in the United States. The Society also reviews forest technician education programs. Many members of the Society are licensed, registered, or certified by state programs. Some are also certified under the Society's own certification process. Additionally, members of the Society abide by a Cole of Ethics.
Licensing, registration, and certification programs (LRC) are beneficial not only to the profession, but also to foresters' clients. LRC programs promote professional development, growth, and encourage high standards of performance. When properly credentialed, the visibility of foresters is enhanced among clients, consumers, and peers. Parties are assured that individuals with inadequate training or skills cannot justifiably present themselves as possessing skills that only qualified foresters can offer. Clients have the assurance that an individual has met the state's or the profession's standards for competency in forestry. Sound natural resources management is critical for our sustainable future. Every measure taken to improve the quality of forest land and resource management benefits society.
The reasons for states to initiate licensing/registration/certification (LRC) programs differ. Generally, forestry professionals believe that LRC programs will educate the public about the role of foresters, thus improving the image of professional forestry; however, some foresters believe that any type of credentialing program is unnecessary.
Many states require an examination prior to being awarded a particular LRC status, however, some states do not. A Bachelor of Science in Forestry (BSF) and forestry experience are common components of state requirements for LRC in many states, but not all. Connecticut has the only state certification program that requires no educational or previous experience to become certified; only the successful completion of an exam is needed to achieve such a status.
Many foresters question whether a state legislative body can define professional ethics in forestry through LRC programs. However, the benefits foresters can receive from these programs are invaluable and probably override such concerns. There are currently 15 states with LRC programs.