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Sangster, M (2014)
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects:
The institutions of Forestry in Great Britain are in flux. The Forestry Commission, the state forest service that has been the dominant presence in British forestry for almost a century, no longer operates in Wales and its future in England and Scotland is uncertain. The paper explores the internal and external socio-political environment of the forestry profession in Britain. It asks how contemporary society understands forestry, how this influences the profession and how, in turn, this understanding changes as forestry practice develops. From the perspective of the professional body for forestry, the Institute of Chartered Foresters, the paper also explores how the profession might maintain and enhance the voice of its members as decisions are made that will set the course of forestry for many years. The forestry sector traditionally has relied on the Forestry Commission to represent it and seems poorly placed to speak for itself. The Institute has neither the resources nor a mandate from its members to occupy the territory left vacant as the Forestry Commission diminishes. Also, the profession has an adaptive culture, better fitted to dealing with incremental change than to radical upheaval. Nevertheless foresters are trusted by the public. Their professional status combined with this strong reputation gives the profession a legitimating role in decision-making and standard-setting in forestry and a mandate to participate more actively in the development of the political and institutional frameworks for the sector.\ud Whilst 70% of professional foresters and arboriculturalists work in the private sector the Government will continue to be the most influential stakeholder in forestry. This is largely because of its regulatory power and its grant-aid schemes. However, ministers and officials see forestry as an environmental activity and give precedence to the views of environmental NGOs over those of the forestry profession. This does not necessarily reflect the way that society thinks about forests. Cultural associations, enjoyment of amenities such as recreation and landscape together with tacit concerns over the stewardship of nature contribute to a complex perspective on forests, trees and woodlands among the wider public. Within the profession there is a diversity of opinion over the role of foresters and different understandings of professional identity and norms. An argument is made that the professional identity of foresters is in part formed through the routines and the agency they derive from their work, and varies according to location and the nature of their tasks. Since the balance of these tasks is strongly influenced by geography there is likely to be a steady divergence in the construction of professional identity in the four countries of the UK. This presents a challenge for the profession in its role as the only remaining UK-wide forestry institution other than Forest Research, a Government research agency. The paper suggests that external change will be accompanied by increasing internal complexity within the professional association. The challenge for the professional body, therefore, is to remain engaged with this increasingly diverse membership whilst continuing to project a professional voice as the sector reshapes itself.

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