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Why SER Certification Makes Sense for the Field of Ecological Restoration

Contributed by Jim Furnish, SER Board Member, Regional Representative, Northeast North America

Photo: Chris Lenhart


As SER launches its new certification program for practitioners, it is useful to address the fundamental question “Why?” Will certification make a meaningful difference to the practice and outcomes of ecological restoration? Your SER Board of Directors believes strongly that it will. This is the foundational hope for our just-released program for practitioners. We think the benefits will quickly become evident to practitioners and those who employ them.

We seek to create legitimacy for professionals, which is one function of a society like SER. There should be standards to gauge the professional merit of a certified practitioner that will, in turn, distinguish their certified restoration work from those who lack the essential training, education, skills, and commitment to maintaining their professionalism.

For those interested in procuring professional services, certification provides a level of assurance and accountability that they will get what they pay for. The benefits to land managers, consultants, land owners and others who might hire certified practitioners include:

  • Easy identification of certified ecological restoration practitioners who meet a high standard of education and experience
  • Improved quality assurance and quality control for ecological restoration projects
  • Improved on-the-ground outcomes
  • Confidence that certified practitioners are bound by the SER Code of Ethics and will act in a manner that is consistent with the standards of conduct

I spent a long career with US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and witnessed the emergence over time of many certification standards for a variety of professions and disciplines. Consider this: fully one-third of the United States is federal land administered by a variety of agencies, with many having ecological restoration obligations and challenges. Similar circumstances, though perhaps of lesser magnitude, exist in other countries throughout the world.

I look forward to the day when federal agencies specify SER certification for ecological restoration contracts. I believe agencies will also develop training modules in association with SER to encourage certification of staff engaged in restoration work.

Such concepts and principles are replicable and can be extrapolated globally to fit almost any nation’s needs and circumstances. Thus, we hope that the availability of certification will meet an existing global need, for both practitioners and those procuring restoration services.

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