Forestry Follows the Professional Path

During the Progressive Era, many people complained about government inefficiency. Impatient with the sometimes slow response of government officials to the problems of society, progressives believed individual “experts” could promote change that would better society. Regarding proper training as crucial to success, progressive thought sparked a wave of professionalism. Inspired by such optimistic thinking, influential doctors and lawyers advocated stricter standards in their line of work during the early 20th century in an effort to distinguish themselves from other forms of employment and to convince private citizens that they possessed the skills necessary to combat the ills of an industrial society. Besides requiring more education and training, law and medicine also formed organizations to monitor the performance and behavior of those people choosing to practice the profession.

For over 100 years foresters have attempted to demonstrate how their work constitutes a profession. Similar to other types of employment like medicine and law, forestry has a set of standards in place to define the field and establish credibility. Below are examples of some of the steps taken by foresters to improve their line of work and become a recognized profession during the previous century.

  • In 1900 Gifford Pinchot founded The Society of American Foresters (SAF).

Hint: What is the purpose of an organization affiliated with a specific type of employment?

  • In 1935 the first accreditation of forestry school programs took place.

Hint: If you are unsure of the meaning of accreditation use a dictionary to find its meaning.

  • In 1948 the SAF adopted its first written code of ethics.

Hint: Why do organizations create rules to guide the behavior and actions of its members?

  • In 1955 a handbook for foresters was published. Over 200 specialists contributed to the reference book that included techniques, formulas, and tables regarding forest management, forest recreation, and forest-wildlife management.

Hint: How could a reference guide help both the public image of foresters and their overall quality of work?

  • In 1981 the SAF awarded the first certificates for its newly created Continuing Forestry Education program.

Hint: Why would an organization encourage its members to take additional courses even if they already hold a college degree in forestry?

  • In 1994 the SAF created the Certified Forester Program to establish standards for certification in the field of forestry.

Hint: Why would an organization want its members to have specific credentials?