WSU returns to roots, reintroduces forestry major

The Washington State University School of Environment welcomed back the Forestry program as a major after it was removed from the department budget in 2011.

“Reductions were made mostly because the program was small and demand was low,” said James Pratt, director of and professor in the School of Environment.

The Washington Legislature set aside funds in the 2013-‘15 biennial budget to reinstate and update the forestry major to better fit the needs of students.

Beginning in the fall of 2015, WSU will begin admitting students into the program.

The School of Environment is fairly new. It was created in 2012 through the merger of the Department of Natural Resources Sciences and the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

There is more of a demand now in the forestry industry, Pratt said. Faculty and staff expect a more successful program after making changes.

The program is expected to have a stronger emphasis on coursework in geographic information systems, landscape level analysis and landscape ecology.

It was this emphasis on specific coursework that drove the decision to re-establish the major, said School of the Environment Associate Director Keith Blatner.

“The university is investing in more faculty and more technology to support [the program],”said Kathryn R. Barnard, executive director of university communications at WSU.

In the updated curriculum, students will focus on some specific key concepts.

“In addition to the technical classes, students are required to develop and hone their written and oral communication skills, their ability to work as part of a team, their time management and other leadership skills,” Barnard said.

Courses will include plants and ecosystems, forest measurements, remote sensing and more.

The next step for the School of Environment is working toward getting accreditation from the Society of American Foresters.

“Accreditation is one way of ensuring that graduates have certain basic competencies critical to the industry,” Barnard said.

The forestry program will offer benefits to students, as they will no longer have to seek out-of-state degrees, Barnard said. An accredited program through the Society of American Foresters will additionally aid students in finding jobs after graduation.

Washington is the second largest lumber producer in the nation, following Oregon.

“The wood products industry in the state is responsible for about 107,000 jobs and $4.5 million in wages,” Barnard said.

Recently the industry has been “graying,” Barnard said.

Sixty percent of the Society of American Foresters members are over the age of 50, she said. The updated program is an opportunity for recently-graduated professionals in the forestry industry to represent a younger voice.

“The industry is expecting major turnover in the workforce in the near future,” Barnard said.