Growing Professionalism in the Forest (GPITF)

In 2007, the Ontario Professional Foresters Association (OPFA), in keeping with its responsibility, embarked on an assessment of issues and options as a first step in pursuit of a goal:

To further protect the Public’s environmental, societal, economic and cultural interests in the forest by establishing a Comprehensive Regulated Community of Practice for all Disciplines concerned with caring for and proper utilization of the Urban, Rural and Crown Forests in Ontario.

Challenge:

  • Increasing public expectations for both conserving environmental and social/cultural values on the one hand and forest jobs and communities on the other;
  • Growing recognition of the intrinsic physical & mental health and social benefits of forests;
  • Changing economics for forest industries and the need to support a wider range of products, both wood and other values;
  • Increasing regulatory environment for landowners;
  • Increasing landowner need for reliable professional advice and assistance;
  • Declining share of government resources at all levels and capacity assigned to both oversight and assistance.

All of these factors are making professional forest care and utilization decisions and actions both more complex and more critical. A variety of disciplines are involved and practitioners of each need to be recognized for their specific skill, knowledge and authority. Employers, clients and regulators need to be able to rely on their advice and action, knowing the practitioners of each discipline meet specified qualification criteria and are personally accountable. Cooperation and respect among the disciplines is increasingly important.

Some disciplines, such as professional foresters, engineers, geoscientists and land surveyors, are clearly regulated with standards and processes established and enforced. But a number of disciplines either do not have clearly required qualification criteria or processes for personal accountability, or we do not understand them.

In keeping with its responsibilities for "development, management, conservation and sustainability of forests and urban forests", Council initiated a multi-year project in pursuit of the goal above.  OPFA undertook research to identify issues, barriers, opportunities and allies and to explore the various options. For each key discipline:

  • What are the issues, concerns and opportunities?
  • Would they like to become allies or partners?
  • Do some or all elements of effective regulation already exist?
  • What are the boundaries and overlaps of their scope of practice? How best defined?
  • What are the options for regulation and which are most suitable?
  • How can we best foster cooperation and a sense of community?
  • Are there economies of scale or other benefits of a common regulatory body for all or some of the disciplines?
  • What are the legislative options and their pros and cons?
  • To what extent could achieving the goal reduce cost to government?
  • Are there other considerations warranting attention?

The Growing Professionalism in the Forest final report was completed and submitted to Council in early April, 2013 and was subsequently tendered for discussion and decisions at the Annual Meeting of the Members in Ottawa on April 11, 2013. The report was commissioned by your Association and prepared by Ray Riley, RPF Hon., Rob Galloway RPF, and Margaret Wanlin, RPF Hon. The report is meant to be the foundation piece of sought opinion from members and others having an interest in the practice of professional forestry in Ontario. The report summarizes the findings from discussions to date and offers some options for further consideration by the association.

The report is available to Members on the OPFA website (see link at bottom of this webpage) and all are encouraged to supplement the responses received to date to the now public document.

The Annual Meeting of the Members received the report in a presentation made by Ray Riley, R.P.F. Hon., on behalf of the Troika, and received the recommendation of Council on the report by President Graeme Davis, R.P.F. Ray presented a brief overview of Ontario’s forest estate and background on regulated professions in Ontario. It was noted that consultation with Forest Technicians and Forest Biologists was conducted as part of the GPITF project to gauge the interest from these forest professionals in joining a regulated profession. Responses from these practitioners are summarized in the final report.  Potential courses of action for the OPFA were identified and presented in the pros and cons for each option. The potential courses of action are:

Option 1: Take no action at this time

Option 2: Natural Resources/Forest Technicians in the OPFA

Option 3: Creation of a New Registered Professional Biologist/Technician Association

Option 4: A MNRF Mandate Model

Option 5: A College of Natural Resource Practitioners

The Annual Meeting heard that Council and the project leadership team endorsed the following recommendations from the final GPITF Report:

Recommendation 1: Accept and move forward to implement Option 2: Natural Resources/Forest Technicians in OPFA.

Recommendation 2: Gauge the level of interest among affected and interested parties to move forward with Option 5: A College of Natural Resource Practitioners. 

The next steps include contacting MNRF regarding potential options and engaging in further discussion with arborists. (The record of the Annual Meeting of the Members describes the nature of questions/ observations from the floor.)

The Growing Professionalism in the Forest task group have now begun the next steps in following the wishes of the Members.  These are the connection to the Minister of Natural Resources’ office, discussions with forest technicians, arborists and landscape architects who are among the long list of parties potentially interested in alignment in a College of Natural Resource Practitioners.