How to Hire a Land Management Consultant

By: Amos S. Eno
Posted on:07/26/2011

Tips from Rans Thomas, of Thomas Resources Wildlife and Land Enhancement, on how to get the most bang for your buck.

Here at Resources First Foundation, we are all about helping private landowners of all kinds with solutions to stewardship, income, and management issues on their property.  An essential part of our approach is the Yellowpages section on the Private Landowner Network and related state sites, which are designed to help landowners and managers find experts of all kinds to assist them.  I would be remiss if I did not ask Rans Thomas of Thomas Resources Wildlife and Land Enhancement for his advice on how to find the right consultant for private recreational properties.

Amateur or Wildlife Expert?

“When I was coming up,” says Rans, “there was only one accepted way to be recognized as a wildlife management expert and that was to become a biologist.  Now it’s more accepted if you’ve killed a record deer and planted a few food plots to hang out your shingle.  There’s a flood of amateur enthusiasts out there claiming to be experts, but relatively few good consultants.  Hopefully, what I have to say will help readers find a good consultant  who is  accomplished and effective, offering their services because they are truly passionate about managing land and wildlife and have paid their dues.

“First thing I’d say is, don’t base your decision on someone’s hunting record.  A great hunter is not the same as a great land manager.  Just because someone is expert behind the wheel doesn’t mean they know how to build a fast car.  I’d recommend you look for a person with at least some formal training, such as an AASD or higher degree in forestry, biology or wildlife.  It’s not that a piece of paper means you are qualified.  (I’ve had to teach kids fresh out of school with master’s degrees some of the simplest hands-on techniques.)  Rather, it’s an indicator that land management is your life focus, and you’ve invested yourself in it.  Plus, the ability to stay on top of current scientific research is important.

Experience is the Best Teacher

“Second, look for experience - I’d say at least 3 to 5 years of hands-on time working with land, not necessarily just research.  Research in a lab or wildlife enclosure doesn’t train a person in practical application or how to handle the Human Factor in land management.  People with the most to offer a client  have been out there working land  getting their hands dirty.

“Third, of course ask for references.  If someone gives you one client who has the same last name, you might want to start worrying.  There’s no substitute for having had successful experiences working for others.  Also, look for a diversity of experience.  Your consultant will need the experience that matches your goals for your property.  If you’ve got a great well-managed property, but not great hunting results, you probably need a hunting consultant as opposed to a land and wildlife expert, but it’s my experience that this is rarely the case.