Thank you for your questions. First, Illinois is in dire need of additional professional consulting foresters to handle the burgeoning number of forest management related requests coming in from our 169,000 forest landowners.
Secondly, there is no licensure or certifications required to practice forestry in Illinois. If you are interested in practicing forestry in Illinois, all you need to do is contact Bill Calvert with Illinois Consulting Foresters, Inc. to have your name included on the master list of professional consulting foresters (must have a BS in forestry).
As with most jobs, experience is important if you want to be considered as a reliable and trustworthy source of forest management expertise. However, experience is no substitute for competence. I personally would take a young, competent "greenhorn" forester any day over an experienced forester who fails to stay abreast of our dynamic forestry profession. The point I am trying to make is that if you are skilled, learned, and competent - you will make a fine professional consulting forester.
How much experience do you need? Well, that depends on your level of competence. Are you adept in writing forest management plans? Are you adept in prescribing silvicultural prescriptions for central hardwoods? Are you an effective communicator? Do you have good forest inventory and mapping skills? Do you have experience in marking timber sales, administering timber sales, marking intermediate stand treatments such as crop tree release, improvement cutting, and thinnings? If yes, then becoming a professional consulting forester should come very easy to you.
Now, how does one get started in consulting forestry – good question! Professional consulting forestry is essentially marketing and business planning. I would strongly urge you to refer to the website for the Association of Consulting Foresters (www.acf-foresters.org). Rather than write countless paragraphs upon paragraphs about what it takes to become an effective consulting forester, check out the aforementioned website and give me a call directly. I recently engaged three young foresters to enter the Illinois consulting forester pool and I would be more than happy to entertain any questions you have directly over the telephone. Feel free to contact me directly at (217) 244-0534. I have over six years experience as a district forester for the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources so I am very familiar with what it takes to succeed as a consulting forester here in Illinois.
Best of luck to you!