PULLMAN, Wash. — James Freed, a member of the Washington State University Cooperative Extension faculty for 20 years, has received national recognition for an innovative environmental education program that teaches public and private land managers about managing non-timber forest products as an environmentally and economically sustainable enterprise.
Freed’s program was one of three across the nation to receive the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Award.
“These programs truly represent the best of the best,” said I. Miley Gonzalez, USDA Under Secretary for Research Education and Economics. “They bring together the critical elements of innovation, collaboration and diversity that empower local communities to use and protect their natural resources.”
Freed, who is on special assignment working with the U.S. Forest Service at the headquarters of the Olympic National Forest in Olympia, manages the Pacific Northwest Special Forest Products Extension Education and Research Program. It is funded by Washington State University and the Forest Service with cooperation from Oregon State University.
Landowners who participate in the program learn about new options to harvest products annually without large equipment and with a minimum investment. These options are especially useful for environmentally sensitive lands such as wetlands or riparian zones, or for lands designated for wildlife protection.
The program also teaches displaced timber workers about native plant identification, sustainable harvesting techniques, processing, marketing and business management.
The extension program has spawned 19 new companies that employ 260 permanent and 600 seasonal employees.
The special forest products industry, which includes floral greens, Christmas greens, mushrooms, berries and various medicinal and related plant materials, is worth more than $200 million a year in Washington and Oregon, according to Freed.
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