When classes started a few weeks ago at the Ranger School in Wanakena, NY, it was anything but ‘business as usual.’ A new curriculum in Environmental and Natural Resources Conservation is credited with increasing the School’s enrollment by nearly 50%. With additional programs, more students and new teaching staff, the Ranger School is poised to begin its second century (in 2012) on a very positive note.
It has been over 25 years since the Ranger School–a regional campus of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF)–has welcomed such a large class. After seeing stable enrollment of about 40-45 students each of the last several years, this year’s class of 59 represents a significant increase.
Much of the increase in enrollment is attributed to a brand new AAS-degree program in Environmental and Natural Resources Conservation (ENRC). The new program focuses less on timber production and traditional forest management and more on wildlife, forest recreation, soils and water conservation. It also includes an intriguing new class called “Adirondack Cultural Ecology,” wherein students learn about the ways that the natural resources of the Adirondacks have influenced human use and the general culture of the Park, and vice-versa.
The ENRC program is designed to prepare graduates for a shifting job market which, in turn, reflects a shift in the way Society values forests. It’s still important to grow trees to meet society’s demand for lumber, paper, firewood and other traditional products, but it’s increasingly important to understand, protect and sustainably manage forests for wilderness, wildlife, clean air, clean water, carbon storage, forest recreation, and aesthetics.
The Ranger School maintains two other AAS-degree programs, one in Forest Technology, and one in Land Surveying Technology. The former curriculum has been in place in one form or another since the School’s primitive beginnings in 1912. The Surveying program was first offered in 1995 and recently received ABET accreditation.
In August of 2012, the Ranger School celebrates 100 years of hands-on, technical forestry education. As such, it is the longest running program of its kind in North America. The School was formed one year after the birth of its parent institution, ESF (known then as the College of Forestry at Syracuse University), with a donation of 1,800 acres of land from the Rich Lumber Company. More information about the Ranger School and its upcoming Centennial Celebration can be found at the School’s website.
Photos: Above, entrance to Ranger School campus in Wanakena, NY; below, Aerial view of Ranger School. Courtesy Jamie Savage.
Jamie Savage is a Professor at the SUNY-ESF Ranger School, Certified Forester, Licensed Outdoor Guide, and Adirondack singer-songwriter from Piercefield, NY.