Effective communication skills are a requirement of the productive members in the Natural Resource Management community. The ability to effectively communicate ideas and information is a major reason for the broad positive advancements in Natural Resource Management. The professional standards of all aspects of communication prevent the loss of data, time, knowledge and resources. Those same standards help improve safety, the quality of research and the quality of working environments. The requirements of acceptable data are achieved through the well-established research methods that are readily available to the professionals of the Natural Resource Management community. Members of the professional community can reference the acceptable methods of research published in peer reviewed journals and books. “The American Journal of Botany requires authors to frame their research questions and discuss their results in terms of major questions of plant biology to maximize the impact and value of their research. Purely descriptive papers and broad surveys are not generally considered or accepted for publication” (McPherson 2006).
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Through such publications as the American Journal of Botany, a professional can research years and years of data collection. The use of data collected in the past is essential to protect current natural resources from previous management mistakes. A professional who collects and applies the knowledge established by past research can use the funds available for Natural Resource Management more efficiently. For a professional to be productive, one must work as a member of their professional community. To achieve this, one must follow communication standards that promote safety, tolerance, ethics, and organization in the work place. The effective use of communication to assign duties and clarify operations can prevent avoidable mistakes and hazards. Practicing the acceptable communication standards of the work place can ensure individuals work together respectfully and avoid inefficient or offensive behavior.
PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION STANDARDS
The ability of a professional to communicate ideas and data has a profound impact on the effectiveness of their work. The Natural Resource Management field can require an individual's work to be highly social. The ability to effectively communicate with the public is required of most positions. It is extremely difficult to manage natural resources without the cooperation and support of the public. Many of the techniques used to manage natural resources could be viewed as barbaric or wasteful by some members of society. If a professional has the ability to educate the public about potential problems or required management actions, their chances of successful management greatly increase. Being able to communicate with the public and other members of the professional community requires a knowledge and proper use of the field's terminology. The use of publications like the Glossary of Wildland Fire Terminology is one way professionals ensure the achievement of communication goals. “The Glossary helps to improve communication and provide consistency in terminology usage throughout management organizations. It will also facilitate consistent use of glossary terms in publications, course development, and incident management activities” (National Wildfire Coordinating Group Incident Operations Standards Working Team 2007).
Natural Resource Management techniques, like prescribed burning, require consistent communication, written and oral, to be effective and accepted. If an employee writes the wrong terminology or description, or someone reads and interprets it incorrectly, a potentially hazardous situation can quickly result. A prescribed burn plan is prepared to protect the public, personnel and the natural resources. “Prescription burning is a highly technical job requiring knowledge of fire behavior, suppression techniques, and environmental effects of fire” (Wade and Lunsford 1988). The burn plan preparation requires the professional to use many of the communication skills that the Natural Resource Management field requires. The individual must research professional publications to obtain knowledge on the objectives to achieve and problems to mitigate. Learning from other professional's experiences improves the chances of a positive management outcome.
“The first step to a successful prescribed burn is a stand-by-stand analysis of the forest lands being managed” (Wade and Lunsford 1988). An analysis of the prescribed burn area requires the preparer to communicate using binomial nomenclature and taxonomic publications to identify and inventory the vegetation to be treated. Being able to obtain this knowledge and present it to the rest of the management community is essential to effective management. The plan preparer will need to establish burn complexity using the National Wildfire Coordinating Group Complexity Rating Guide. Correctly using such guides to communicate complexities to the management team will improve safety. Without the use of these communication skills, the management practice could become fatal.
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As part of any burn plan, a map will need to be made specific to each burn plan. “A detailed map of each burning unit is an important part of the burning plan. The map should show the boundaries of the planned burn, adjacent land owners, topography, control lines (both existing and those to construct), anticipated direction of the smoke plume, smoke-sensitive areas, holding details, and other essential information.”(Wade and Lunsford 1988). A professional's ability to communicate the layout of the area through the map can directly reflect the outcome of the prescribed burn. Map construction and interpretation is an essential communication skill required of a Natural Resource Manager. Producing an inaccurate map or misinterpreting a useful map can result in wasted time and funds. Professional map format requires the maps creator to include a map legend, scale, orientation, title and border. This format needs to be used by all professionals who work in the field. By producing a map without the required format, an individual could misrepresent information necessary for future management practices.
During the construction and after the completion of a management plan, the preparer must be able to effectively communicate with coworkers and the public. This requires that the manager persuasively promote safety, ethics, tolerance and organization through his/her communication. A professional needs to follow ethical standards when using phone, internet, radio, verbal, written and all other forms of communication. Standards are well developed, and failure to use them could result in lawsuits or management failures. A professional's communication practices need to go beyond the legal requirements and promote the employers principals. “Organizational values often include such traditional virtues as trust, loyalty and commitment, honesty and respect for one another, and avoiding conflicts of interest” (Baeyer 1999). The failure of a professional to uphold its employer's standards of communication can result in severe negative consequences. A professional should take the initiative to remain current with the knowledge of the workplace communication standards, and utilize all forms of communication available to them. The ability to communicate using computer applications like Power Point or Word processors will help managers meet their goals. Being open to new ideas and applications will inevitable improve a professional's ability to work as a valuable member of the Natural Resource Management community.
BENEFITS OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
The professional's ability to communicate ideas, plans, data or goals will have a direct outcome on the communicator's desired affect. Professionals cannot contribute to the advancement of their field if they do not continually improve their communication skills. Without effective communication, a Natural Resource Manager cannot effectively work with the public to improve and protect natural resources. The ability to educate, inform, or learn from a coworkers or citizen is a very important part of Natural Resource Management. Using common terminology and binomial nomenclature to clarify specific topics can give both sides of any management situation a common ground to start from. The use of publications like peer reviewed journals and books, provides consistency to research and reference. The format of journals improves research reference abilities. Meeting research method standards of the professional community improves the equality of data collected through research. The professional's ability to obtain previous research data improves future management applications by giving a broader view of the resources history.
A professional needs the ability to accurately present objectives to apply management practices. Using acceptable methods and standards communication improves the workplace environment and productivity. Poor communication creates hazardous situations, loses data, wastes time and funds, and potentially offends coworkers. All forms of communication used by a professional need to be in the acceptable format, delivered in the acceptable manner and be made clear to the intended audience. The ethics of a professional are clearly represented by his/her communication. The communication of a professional also represents the ethics, mission, and credibility of his/her employer. If applied correctly, communication skills help to advance individual managers and the entire Natural Resource Management field.
Baeyer C. 1999 Discovering Discourse Ethics [Internet]. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Workplace Ethics Consultancy; 1999 [cited 2008 Feb 15]. Available from: <http://www.workplaceethics.ca/discourse.html>
McPherson A. 2006. American Journal of Botany: Author Instructions [Internet]. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Botanical Society of America, Inc.; 2003 [cited 2008 April 4]. Available from: <http://www.amjbot.org/misc/ifora.shtml>
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National Wildfire Coordinating Group Incident Operations Standards Working Team, Prepared by:. 2007. Glossary of Wildland Fire Terminology [Internet] Boise, Idaho, USA: National Wildfire Coordinating Group; 2007 [cited 2008 April 4]. Available from: http://www.nwcg.gov/pms/pubs/glossary/index.htm
Wade D, D. Lunsford J, D. 1988. A Guide for Prescribed Fire in Southern Forests [Internet]. Forest Service Southern Region, USA: United States Department of Agriculture; 2003 [cited 2008 April 4]. Available from: <http://www.bugwood.org/pfire/index.html>