A two-year associate of applied science degree in forest technology has been added to the School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees and the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently approved the degree.

The new program begins with the 2017 fall semester and requires four semesters plus an intersession and one summer term. It is designed to allow students in the two-year program to transition into the four-year bachelor of science in natural resource management degree.

The associate degree requires coursework in woods and field skills, tree identification, forest measurements, forest propagation and regeneration, forest fire-fighting, resource management and personnel supervision.

Graduates of the forest technology program will be able to work with licensed foresters to inventory forests, identify forest health issues, supervise harvests, site preparation and tree planting, conduct prescribed burns, maintain boundary lines and apply GPS, GIS and surveying skills.

According to Phil Tappe, dean of the School of Forestry and Natural Resources and director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center, the new degree program fills an immediate need in the forest industry.

“We regularly monitor the employment needs of the Arkansas forest products industry,” Tappe said. “Over the past two decades, the industry has faced unprecedented challenges and substantial change. Additionally, privately-owned forest land is prevalent in Arkansas, driving the need for a variety of forest management services. Surveys indicate a need for approximately 100 positions in Arkansas in the next three to five years with starting salaries ranging from $25,000 to $51,000 a year.”

Tappe said the new associate of science program adds flexibility to the forestry and natural resources curriculum and provides the content required for forest technology accreditation by the Society of American Foresters (SAF).

“One of the advantages of this program is that it not only provides a pathway to transition to a four-year baccalaureate degree, it gives students who begin in the four-year program an avenue to switch to the AAS degree track if their interests or circumstances change,” Tappe said.