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Forest Sustainability Reporting in the United States
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Indicator 7.52: Develops and maintains human resource skills across relevant disciplines

An indicator for Criterion 7: Legal, Institutional, and Economic Framework for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Management

What is the indicator and why is it important?

The extensive knowledge and skills applied by people who are engaged in the development and implementation of forest resource policies and programs are critical to accomplishing the wide-ranging goals of forest sustainability and conservation. These disciplinary and resource skills are developed via formal educational programs for field workers, technical staff, and natural resource professionals, and via professional work experiences and access to continuing education opportunities.

What does the indicator show?

Various national and State laws and regulations exist that affect worker safety and training in the forestry sector. Most laws and regulations would fall under the auspices of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), and similar State agencies. Related laws cover highway and trucking safety and operator licensing. These laws require the use of safety equipment, training in safe operations, and now, use of Best Management Practices to avoid adverse environmental impacts.

Most of the actual education and training is conducted by States, either through their educational institutions such as Land Grant universities or community colleges, or through their industry trade associations in cooperation with the relevant State agencies. They also offer technical assistance, research on better methods and procedures, and planning to improve performance.

Similarly, education is provided for forest resource professionals, in addition to field forest workers. This professional education effort is led by accredited forestry programs in most States and complemented by research and extension efforts. Bachelor of Science and graduate degree programs associated with this effort are often complemented by State registration and licensing programs or the national Society of American Foresters Certified Forester program.

Professional education is offered for other forest-related disciplines, including wildlife and fisheries, natural resources, soils and hydrology, environmental sciences, ecology, and others. Several of these, but not all, have professional certification or registration procedures. Some private and public institutions offer forestry programs as well, for field operators, technicians, and professionals.

As of 2009, 2,244 certified foresters were recognized by the Society of American Foresters. This number included forestry consultants (25 percent), personnel in private industry (24 percent), State and local government (19 percent), Federal Government (9 percent), and college and university (7 percent), along with retirees (7 percent) and other (9 percent). There also were 15 States with separate forestry registration laws and thousands of registered foresters; most programs required continuing education as part of their requirements. Similarly, The Wildlife Society had 3,658 certified wildlife biologists in 2009.

Table 52-1: Policy and Governance Classification

What has changed since 2003?

Laws and regulations affecting human resources and skills have continued to evolve incrementally over the last decade. State efforts to improve trucking and logger training are pervasive, and rules about trucking safety and regulations are common. Forest certification has affected training for foresters and in particular for persons who perform audits. Some State forestry registration laws have been eliminated or threatened as part of periodic State budget cuts and reviews.

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Criterion 7 Indicators