Regulation of the Profession of Forestry
Members of the General Assembly requested that the Legislative Audit Council review the Board of Registration for Foresters to determine how the profession of forestry should be regulated by the state. State law (§40-1-10) requires that a profession should be regulated only when regulation is clearly necessary to preserve the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
We could not identify a connection between the regulation of the practice of forestry and the protection of the public. The board has done little to ensure that landowners consult registered foresters or to enforce the law requiring registration. Existing civil and criminal penalties for timber theft and fraud address the potential harm from incompetent practice. The South Carolina Forestry Commission has provided assistance to landowners and increased its enforcement activities to protect the public from timber theft and fraud.
A majority of states do not regulate foresters. Only 16 states have some form of forester credentialing, and 6 of these do not regulate the practice of forestry, but provide certification of qualified foresters. Also, professional and occupational associations provide another avenue for the public to identify competent practitioners and become aware of forestry issues.
We recommend that the state should not continue to restrict the practice of forestry. The General Assembly should consider a less restrictive type of regulation, such as certification. Alternatively, the General Assembly could discontinue regulation of the forestry profession.