Team members Andrew Perleberg, Kevin Zobrist, Sean Alexander, Patrick Shults, Rebekah Zimmerer, Grace Garrison, Todd Murray, Vikram Yadama, and Karl Englund received WEDA’s Excellence in Programming award as part of the association’s joint annual meeting, June 29, 2022 in Concord, Calif.
“Washington has one of the richest forestry cultures on Earth,” said Perleberg, forestry team leader. “Families care deeply about leaving forests in better shape than when they came into ownership of the land.”
“To be selected as the top Extension program in the West is amazing,” he added. “Because there are so many participants in our programs, we get to hear how our programs have changed people’s lives, often! It is common to hear, ‘I’ll never look at my forest the same way again.'”
The Extension Forestry team provides education and training to Washington’s 215,000 forest-owning families, and those who work with them. Small forest owners manage more than 5 million acres—making them the largest rural land use group in Washington.
Family forests are at risk due to wildfire, drought, insects and disease, invasive species, land-use changes, and past mismanagement resulting in unhealthy, overstocked forests. Education and technical skills are the top needs for owners to plan and employ best practices to steward their lands.
The WSU team combines tradition and technology in reaching learners. During the pandemic, the team launched an Online Field Day over Zoom, replicating it for Online Winter School across three seasons. Extension Forestry has offered more than 200 online webinars and over 100 YouTube videos, as well as downloadable bulletins, podcasts, and pre-recorded modules.
Since 2010, Extension educators have held more than 1,100 events and workshops, attended by more than 53,000 people. Their efforts have led to a $2.7 billion positive net benefit in protected or enhanced forests and resources across every forested county in Washington.
The program influenced forest health, stewardship, and wildfire mitigation treatments, including on more than 366,000 acres controlled by 34,000 families in eastern Washington alone. WSU’s Coached Planning short course created some of the furthest reaching impacts through the planning process. Seventy-three percent of participants in WSU’s Ties to the Land Succession and Estate Planning workshops prepared a 10-year plan. More than a third created 20-year plans. In Forest Manager education, more than 600 logging contractors increased awareness for protecting water quality, as well as their ability to manage insects and disease, prevent fire, protect soil erosion, and market forest products.
“Private forests generate public benefits through the healthy, productive, and safe management executed by the owners– most of whom will never see timber harvest revenues from the trees they plant today,” Perleberg said. “All forest land is important, whether it’s five or 5,000 acres.”