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Preparing passionate leaders driving change in sustainability and stewardship of the environment.

  —Our Mission

A Q&A with Steve Auten about NR 475: Sustainable Forestry and Environmental Practices

By Sophia Marquez 

What is NR 475?  

Steve Auten: Sustainable Forestry and Environmental Practices is a five- week 12-unit course taught at Swanton Pacific Ranch, near Santa Cruz. The course teaches students how to write a timber harvest plan (THP), the functional equivalent of an environmental impact report (EIR). Students are given an area of forested land and charged with creating a plan that identifies how timber will be harvested in a manner consistent with the California Forest Practice Rules (CFPR). This course is taught by more than 40 different resource professionals, all who have decades of experience. This summer it will be offered for the 12th time, with 20 students enrolled.

What do students gain after taking this course?

SA:  One positive comment I got from a student was, "When I put that THP down on the table in the interview and started talking about what I learned in NR 475, that job was mine."

What are some new additions to the class?

SA: The list of professionals who teach the multidisciplinary class changes year to year so that we are offering maximum benefit. One of California's greatest challenges are wildfires. The latest change to the NR 475 curriculum was to add a fuels management component to each THP that is reviewed by government agencies.

What does the future of this course look like? Could there be some aspects tailored to other majors besides forestry?

SA: If enough interest was generated by students and faculty, an IAU- (industry, agency and oniversity) based course for environmental management and protection could be developed in the very same manner as NR 475. Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch is operated as a private nonprofit organization and must obtain permits, just like any other private landowner. This creates a unique connection between Swanton Pacific Ranch and the many other agencies and resource professionals who write environmental impact reports.


For more stories, read the rest of our Spring 2019 Newsletter


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