College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

News & Events

April 30, 2003

Environmental Science Major Wins 2003 Educational Initiatives Award

by Kathryn Stelljes

Berkeley—The Environmental Sciences Major--the first and only cross-college major at Berkeley—was awarded the Chancellor’s Educational Initiatives Award at a ceremony last night at the Zellerbach Playhouse.

The major allows students in either the College of Natural Resources or the College of Letters & Sciences to take the same curriculum, with a choice of emphasis in biological, physical, or social science.

“No single department can provide a comprehensive view of environmental sciences, and at Berkeley, expertise in this area is distributed widely among departments and colleges,” said Lynn Huntsinger, CNR Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Instruction. “The broad, interdisciplinary academic preparation in this major allows students to work effectively toward solving real-life environmental problems that very rarely fall within the lines separating traditional academic disciplines.”

Students complete a senior research project and thesis as a capstone experience. In a series of senior courses, students first investigate an environmental problem or issue of their own choosing. Then, working closely with instructors, they design a thesis project and conduct their research.

“The major has rigorous science requirements, giving graduates the fundamental scientific skills they need to work effectively in the field. These skills are also highly valued by graduate schools and employers,” said Huntsinger.

The award was jointly accepted by the deans of the two colleges. It includes a certificate signed by the Chancellor and a cash grant of $20,000 which will be used to enhance the major.

“The Educational Initiatives Award selection committee reports that it was impressed by the commitment of the College of Natural Resources and the College of Letters and Science to cross-college, interdisciplinary learning, and by the sense of community among students that this commitment has fostered,” said CNR Dean Paul Ludden.
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“Receipt of this award reflects what I already knew to be true: that the Environmental Sciences major is an outstanding degree program with a wonderful student body.”

To view a short video on the Environmental Science major, go to http:://teles.berkeley.edu:8080/ramgen/2002/special_events/eia/envsci.rm

April 23, 2003

Forest Health, Not Timber and Roads, is the Key Issue, Nation's Chief Forester Says

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by Kathryn Stelljes

View a webcast of Bosworth's lecture at http://webcast.berkeley.edu/events

BERKELEY – Commercial logging and associated road construction are not the primary issues in today’s national forests, the nation’s chief forester told a packed hall on Tuesday (April 22) at a University of California, Berkeley Earth Day lecture.

Dale N. Bosworth, chief of the USDA Forest Service, said forest management should focus instead on improving forest health and reducing the risk of catastrophic forest fires, slowing the spread of invasive species, maintaining ecosystem integrity amid rapid land conversion and managing off-road recreation.

Bosworth’s comments, at a talk sponsored by the College of Natural Resources, were met with skepticism by some in the audience, who questioned the soundness of long-term forest management plans and the Forest Service’s relationship with the timber industry.

Bosworth cited concerns about logging, individual endangered species, livestock grazing and road construction as "great diversions," or "relatively unimportant matters that take up a lot of our time and effort."

"Much of the debate surrounding national forest management is stuck in the past," he said. "The Forest Service faces some big issues in land management, but timber harvest just isn't one of them."

In fact, Bosworth said, today's national forests produce less than 2 billion board feet of timber per year, compared with up to 12 billion board feet in the past. And while about 150 miles of new forest roads are added each year, Bosworth said the road system in national forests is actually shrinking.

"For every mile of road we added, we've decommissioned 14 miles – more than 10,000 miles in the last five years," he said.

Bosworth, a second-generation civil servant, became the agency’s 15th chief on April 12, 2001. His father, Irwin, graduated from Cal in 1939 with an Agricultural Sciences degree and also worked for the Forest Service.

In the Q&A session after the talk, members of the audience, which included students, faculty and members of the public, questioned whether the structure and funding of the Forest Service would allow the agency to meet Bosworth's aggressive goals.

Some students challenged Bosworth to guarantee that U.S. forests would be protected in the future from commercial timber harvesting. Bosworth said the deciding factor will be public consumption of timber products, and he asked whether it was ethical to import timber from other countries that don’t have stringent environmental regulations in order to conserve our own resources.

In fact, he said that public demand for timber, as well as congressional priorities over several decades, have fueled a misperception of the Forest Service as an arm of the commercial timber industry.

"Fifty years ago, we thought we faced a timber famine. State and private timber stocks were exhausted following World War II, and there was a huge postwar demand for lumber to help fulfill the American dream of owning a single-family home. Every administration for 30 or 40 years, with strong bipartisan support, placed high demands on the Forest Service for national forest timber," he said.

But public values changed in the 1960's and 70's, symbolized by the first Earth Day in 1970. Today, except in Alaska and the Southeast, timber harvests in the national forests are primarily to reduce fuel load rather than for commercial gain, he said.

As the agenda for the forest service has evolved, Bosworth indicated that the relationship between timber companies and the Forest Service has not always been rosy.

"People have accused us of being in bed with the timber industry," he said. "Let me tell you, it's not the kind of place I want to be in bed."

At a reception following the talk, faculty provided a mixed review."He did a good job of giving the party line, but he wasn't asked the difficult questions. Everyone was being nice," said wildlife biology professor Reg Barrett.

Barrett and other biologists, for example, question the appropriateness of shifting shifting focus away from individual species.

"It is not possible to scientifically evaluate the health of a forest ecosystem without looking at the health of its component pieces – species,” said Professor Steven Beissinger, chair of the College of Natural Resource's Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “Some species have a proportionately greater role in maintaining the functions of a forest ecosystem and, in addition to threatened species, their viability needs to be evaluated."

Other researchers stressed the need to ensure that current large-scale management plans like the Sierra Nevada Framework are scientifically sound. The framework is a comprehensive plan to reduce the risk of wildfire, particularly near communities, and protect old forests, watersheds and wildlife in the 11 national forests in the Sierra Nevada region.

"We need to do more experiments on moderate-sized areas before techniques such as prescribed burning and thinning are applied to millions of acres," said Scott Stephens, assistant professor of fire science. “This would allow the public to see what is planned at larger spatial scales and may improve public trust."

Still, Bosworth's long-term approach to national forests – rather than total support of the current administration policies – and his efforts toward consensus-building were well received.

Bosworth spoke as part of the College of Natural Resources’ William Main Distinguished Visitor Program. The semester-long series provides an opportunity for students to meet with leaders from industrial, governmental, and other public organizations concerned with forestry and related natural resource issues.

April 14, 2003

Sierra Nevada Protection Plans May Need More Work

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by Kathryn Stelljes

GEORGETOWN, CALIF. -- Fire hazard reduction methods slated for nearly 2 million acres in the Sierra Nevada may not work as anticipated, according to research conducted at the Blodgett Forest Research Station near Georgetown, Calif., in El Dorado County. Details on this and other studies at the forest will be presented on May 9-10 at the research station.

At issue is the effort to protect specific groups of young trees while burning the surrounding areas. By choosing when and where to burn, land managers hope to reduce the chance of catastrophic wildfires. This method already forms the backbone of proposed management plans for the Sequoia National Monument and the 1.4-million-acre National Forest Management Area in the northern Sierra often associated with the Quincy Library Group.

While the plan sounds feasible, UC Berkeley researcher Scott Stephens found in recent studies that the technique is "much more difficult to implement than anyone imagined." Stephens is an assistant professor of forest science at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources.

"We were the first to actually conduct prescribed burns around designated group selection units," Stephens said. Despite the good condition of the groups in terms of fuel load, the burns repeatedly spotted into the groups and many of the trees were too small to withstand the fires. "Logistically it became a giant challenge to protect the trees inside the groups." Based on his work, Stephens believes the strategy needs to be re-evaluated before it can be used successfully over large areas.

This research is part of a large, interagency Fire and Fire Surrogate study funded by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior. Stephens is the lead investigator for the study. He will present these and other research results as part of an invitation-only scientific session on May 9 and an open house free that is for the public on May 10 at Blodgett Forest Research Station, 4501 Blodgett Forest Road, Georgetown.

The station is owned and operated by the College's Center for Forestry and supported by the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

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Environmental Science Major Wins 2003 Educational Initiatives Award
Forest Health, Not Timber and Roads, is the Key Issue, Nation's Chief Forester Says
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