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California Certified Rangeland Manager Program

The intent of California’s Certified Rangeland Manager Program is to provide evidence of professional competency, to protect the public interest,and to ensure proper management of the state’s rangeland resources as embodied in the Code of Professional Ethics of the Society for Range Management.The need to create this program arose from a series of California legislation and legal interpretation of those acts.

In 1972 the Professional Foresters Licensing Act (PFLA) was adopted,which broadly defined forestry and required a state license (Registered Professional Forester or RPF) to practice forestry. In 1987 the Professional Foresters Licensing Committee appointed a task force to examine the role of RPFs on hardwood rangeland (oak woodland, annual rangeland). The taskforce determined that state law (PFLA) required an RPF to supervise wildland management. The implication was that range managers must be licensed as a forester or work under the supervision of an RPF. The following year the State Board of Forestry appointed an ad hoc Hardwood Range Committee to reexamine this issue. The Committee agreed with the task force findings but suggested clarified definitions of legal terms, application of revised,regulations, and, possible, changes in the PFLA to provide opportunities for non-forestry professional practice. The State Attorney General rendered an opinion in 1990 that “forest” and “wildland” ares ynonyms, therefore, rangeland management was legally considered forestry,requiring supervision of an RPF.

In response the California Section, Society for Range Management, appointed a Panel on Certification to develop certification criteria and procedures,and to certify rangeland managers. In 1992 California Assembly Bill 1903 modified the PFLA to authorize individuals to seek Board of Forestry registration under a professional society’s program. In 1993 the California Section’s Panel on Certification finalized their program for certification. This process was presented to, and accepted by, the State Board of Forestry. The next year the California Code of Regulations was amended to allow state licensing of Certified Rangeland Managers under PFLA and redefined the scope of PFLA as applying to “forested landscapes.” Forested landscapes were defined as “tree dominated landscapes and their associated vegetation types which are naturally capable of growing a significant amount of nativetrees.” The interpretation of this description has been that a 10 percent native tree cover (or the potential) constitutes a forested landscape. Thus,hardwood rangeland (oak woodland) within the State are clearly included.

The Section began certifying rangeland managers in 1995. To call yourself a Certified Rangeland Manager one must first by certified by the Section,then become licensed by the State. Certification by the Section requires meeting educational and experience requirements, having letters of reference provided, and passing a written rangeland management examination. Applicants must have completed a course of study in a college or university leading to a bachelor’s or higher degree. The degree must be in range management,or include course work in rangeland ecology, rangeland plant physiology, rangeland animal management, rangeland policy and planning, range economics,and rangeland measurements. Applicants must have five years of experience directly related to range and/or rangeland management and include demonstration of the application of rangeland management principles. Preferably, at least two years of this experience will be in a California range type. Applicants must also provide three letters of reference attesting to their qualifications,one of which must be from a Certified Rangeland Manager. Proof of education and experience, and the letters of reference must be provided to the Section’s Panel on Certification. The Panel must determined that the applicant meets the requirements before the person is permitted to take the written examination.

The written examination is prepared by the Panel on Certification and administered by the State’s Professional Foresters Licensing Committee.The exam consists of short answer and essay questions on rangeland ecology,plant physiology, animal management, policy and planning, economics, and measurement Questions are targeted toward rangeland management in California.The exam is offered one or more times a year at several locations throughout the state.

Those passing the exam become certified by the California Section. This does not entitle the person to call themselves a Certified Rangeland Manager,nor to be legally recognized as such. This requires licensing by the State of California. Fortunately, the State has accepted the Section’s process as meeting their licensing requirements, thus, licensing is a formality.The Section certified individual applies to State for a license and pays an annual fee of $35. The person may then call themselves a Certified Rangeland Manager.

A state license is required for range management activities on forested landscapes as described earlier. A license is clearly required for workon areas such as hardwood rangeland, and mountain meadows (as their are associated with conifer forests), but not on permanently tree-less shrublands, native or cultivated grasslands, or croplands. Activities covered include making management recommendations, developing conservation plans and management plans, and other activities associated with professional rangeland management.Professionals working in the private sector, universities, state agencies,and federal agencies when working on non-federal lands, must be licensed.Licensing is not required for activities on your own land (when you are conducting the activities) nor for federal land.

The California Section has certified approximately 90 individuals. About 60 of these have been licensed by the State. The role of this process, and Certified Rangeland Mangers, is still evolving. The California Section and the State Board of Forestry’s Professional Foresters Examining Committee are working together to clarify the effect of the laws and regulations.

prepared and edited by Richard B. Standiford