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UM College of Forestry Celebrates 100 Years

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MISSOULA -

The College of Forestry and Conservation at The University of Montana celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

The college of forestry at UM formally opened on September 8, back in 1914 with a group of just 25 students.

Jim Burchfield, Dean of College of Forestry and Conservation, said, "At first we were a forestry school, and we were really interested in managing our forests for the sustainable use of timber, which we still do."

Burchfield said they were one of the earliest forestry schools in the nation.

"We've been a world leader on not only being able to use our forests, but being able to protect them," Burchfield said.

Since 1914, the college has expanded to offer five undergraduate and five masters's degrees, three doctoral programs and nearly 1,000 students.

Burchfield said Missoula's close proximity to intact natural forest systems allows students gain hands-on experience and real world knowledge.

"And we also have this great tradition of public lands here, where it's the people who decide how we should use our lands for our benefit," he said.

"I have friends that go to like, OSU and U of I for forestry, and they have no experiences, they have no history like our school does," said senior forestry student, Julian Robinson.

Robinson said as a Montana native, UM's forestry program has given him a strong skill set that will allow him to work -- and play -- in his home state after graduation.

"I've had a variety of work through summers, I've sprayed for pine beetles, I've done timber work, I do fire now, and that's kind of where I see myself going," Robinson said.

But, Burchfield said these days, many forestry students are looking for work internationally. 

"In Africa and Asia and Latin America, with deforestation in the tropics, with forest fragmentation, and they want to do something about it," he said.

Burchfield said they've broadened the curriculum to include a programs for wildlife biology, land restoration and parks tourism and recreation.

He said, "Our students are just as energetic and hands-on and have a sense of spirit and solidarity that's really quite laudable."

Burchfield says 95% of forestry students have a job within their field while attending school, increasing their chances at work after graduation.

College of forestry officials say the Forestry Club at UM is one of the most active student groups on campus, which has hosted the popular Forester's Ball for 96 years.

Click here for a complete list of College of Forestry and Conservation centennial events.

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