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The Forester as Fiduciary

A fiduciary is one who has the power and responsibility to act for another. So, let’s begin with the definition of fiduciary.

This is from Cornell Law School: A fiduciary duty is a legal duty to act solely in another party's interests. Parties owing this duty are called [[wex:fiduciary|fiduciaries]]. The individuals to whom they owe a duty are called [[wex:principal|principals]]. Fiduciaries may not profit from their relationship with their principals unless they have the principals' express informed consent. They also have a duty to avoid any conflicts of interest between themselves and their principals or between their principals and the fiduciaries' other clients. A fiduciary duty is the strictest duty of care recognized by the US legal system.

In simpler terms a forester in a fiduciary relationship has to put their clients’ interest above all others even themselves and must also avoid self dealing or other conflicts of interest between themselves and the client or between their other clients.

With that in mind it is obvious only foresters in private practice or employed in a private practice firm can have a fiduciary responsibility to landowners and other clients. Foresters in any other type of employment must legally and ethically represent their employer’s interests.

Foresters in private practice whose business practices conflict with the clients’ interest cannot be fiduciaries. One of the most common conflicts profiting on purchasing a client’s standing timber and the reselling it or the wood products produced from the timber. Obviously, the less for which timber can be bought the greater the profit for individuals with that business model, an obvious conflict of interest.

Foresters employed to procure wood for mills or harvesting/supply contractors, by various governments, environmental groups, educational organizations, or any other employer owe a fiduciary duty to their employer and cannot be in a fiduciary relationship with a landowner. The profit motive or agenda of the employers are likely to be in conflict with the landowner or client and these foresters must represent their employers’ interest.

We endeavor to be the best representative of our clients’ interest. We are members of the Association of Consulting Foresters and abide by their code of ethics. This code instructs us to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest and prohibits acting in wood procurement capacities. It is our job to act as prudently as you would. It is our job to listen carefully to your goals and balance the long term (e.g forest health and growth) against the short term (e.g. income). RDN

 

jeanie Clemmer