The Society of American Foresters (SAF) has granted accreditation to the University of Vermont’s bachelor of science degree program in forestry administered by the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. SAF is the national organization responsible for accreditation of postsecondary degree-awarding programs in forestry in the U.S. Accreditation of the UVM forestry program, effective January 1, 2018, assures that it meets quality standards established by the forestry profession.
The Society of American Foresters will officially announce the UVM accreditation at the National SAF Convention in Portland, Oregon October 3-7, 2018.
“I had a fantastic experience as a forestry student in the Rubenstein School and am delighted to hear about the recent SAF accreditation, which will strengthen our already outstanding program,” said Katlyn Williard, a 2017 graduate of the program who has accepted a forestry technician position with the U.S. Forest Service on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in Arizona. “Not only will this [accreditation] draw a larger pool of talented and engaged students to the program, but students will graduate with an even stronger skill set [and] ready to succeed in a forestry career.”
Forestry at UVM spans a long history with courses dating back to 1888. The program first earned SAF accreditation in 1971, but in 2002, the School did not seek reaccreditation. Since then, updated SAF standards, tightening of state licensing requirements, and renewed interest among faculty and students stimulated a drive to reapply for SAF accreditation, a process begun in 2014.
“Students and faculty in the School feel the time is right for the forestry program to be accredited once again and to ensure that the program meets rigorous quality standards established by the profession,” said Bill Keeton, professor and recent director of the forestry program who has taught forestry courses in the School since 2001 and led the accreditation effort.
SAF’s current mission, which aligns with ideals promoted by Rubenstein School forestry faculty, involves advancing sustainable management of forest resources and using knowledge, skills, and conservation ethic to ensure the health and use of forests to benefit society into the future.
“There has never been a greater need for well-trained forest professionals,” said Tony D’Amato, professor and current director of the Rubenstein School forestry program. “The forestry profession faces many challenges in the 21st century including impacts from climate change, invasive pests, forest fragmentation, and changing societal values. The UVM forestry program is uniquely poised to deliver training that spans the diversity of forest ownerships in the region and beyond, and SAF provides the professional benchmark.”
Third party review by SAF ensures the program and curriculum maintain a high level of professional standards. More often now, forestry graduates need a degree from an accredited institution to find employment. Licensing for foresters in many states, including Vermont, requires passing the SAF Certified Forester exam. Vermont established licensing for foresters effective July 2016.
“Graduation from an accredited institution is essential to finding employment, proving credibility, and joining the greater network of forestry professionals," said Jonah Salzman-Cohen, a senior in the UVM forestry program who plans to seek employment in consulting forestry upon graduation.
In preparation for accreditation, UVM forestry faculty revitalized the curriculum, hired faculty including D’Amato, and enhanced opportunities for students at the School’s research and teaching forests. Faculty strengthened the curriculum’s foundational science and technical aspects to present them consistently in a sequence of courses. Basic courses in ecology and field measurements, followed by an intensive summer field camp provide students with more in-depth training in forest measurements, field skills, and forestry applications. These skills are reinforced in upper level courses on multi-resource silviculture and sustainable management of forest ecosystems.
“In addition to traditional forestry training, we continue to offer a sustainably-oriented program that delivers progressive concepts and applications to make our students competitive in today’s forestry profession,” said Keeton. “Students gain practical knowledge about traditional forest values, such as wood products, as well as forest carbon markets, water and ecosystem services, green timber certification, stewardship of conservation easement properties, and multi-functional forest management for all types of forestland owners, public and private, large and small.”
Since the School applied for accreditation in 2015, the forestry program has seen a 50 percent upturn in student enrollment and now has 75 undergraduate students in the program.
“I congratulate the faculty, staff, and students at the Rubenstein School,” said Michael Snyder, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation. “As both a proud alum of the UVM forestry program and as commissioner on behalf of all Vermonters, I’m thrilled to hear that our state university’s forestry program has once again received this significant endorsement from an important professional association.”
"The SAF Visiting Team was very impressed by the strong group loyalty displayed by the UVM forestry program and the commitment of the students, faculty, and administration to the program’s success,” said David Newman, professor and Chair of Forest and Natural Resource Management at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and chair of the visiting team. “The program is top notch, and I am very happy that UVM has decided that accreditation is a valuable designation."