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Technologies Help Forest Communications

PULLMAN, Wash. — A University of Washington and Washington State University program that helps rural communities gain access to the latest technology and training for woodlands management has received a national award for private-forestry education.

The Rural Technology Initiative was launched two years ago by the UW’s College of Forest Resources and WSU’s natural resource sciences department and cooperative extension to help cope with forest management under today’s increasingly complex circumstances.

For example, state rules about forest areas closest to streams, called the riparian zone, have changed in response to concerns about endangered salmon. Landowners, workers and land managers in rural communities need such things as remote sensing devices to map riparian areas, computerized landscape-management tools to determine options and specialized forestry equipment for use in those areas.

“The basic scientific knowledge needed to manage forests is far ahead of the capacity to convert the knowledge to useable technologies, to make the technologies accessible to rural areas and to train people to use those technologies,” says Bruce Lippke, director of the Rural Technology Initiative and UW professor. The program’s Web site at http://www.ruraltech.org/ is loaded with information and tools.

“While urban areas are growing with new technologies, rural areas are hampered by difficulties in adopting new technologies,” says Don Hanley, WSU extension forester. The program’s initial funding was from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service Cooperative Programs.

The National Non-Industrial Private Forestry Education Award is given annually by the National Woodland Owners Association, a nationwide organization with 32 state and 287 county chapters, and the National Association of Professional Forestry Schools and Colleges, comprised of 67 organizations across the United States that seek to advance the science and practice of forest resource management.

The award is the organization’s highest award for private forestry education.

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