A prescribed burn is conducted at Feather River College. The college has submitted a proposal to offer a bachelor's degree in fire management. Photo submitted

FRC applies for second bachelor’s degree – Ecosystem Restoration and Applied Fire Management

Will there be another bachelor’s degree in Feather River College’s future? It’s possible. There are 15 potential opportunities and FRC has submitted one of approximately 100 applications that have been received by the state chancellor’s office for consideration. FRC administrators are hopeful because the new degree would focus in part on fire management, which is a hot topic in California.

The college’s Dean of Instruction Derek Lerch said he doesn’t expect to hear back from the chancellor’s office until May. “We expect to be competitive,” Lerch told the FRC trustees during their Jan. 20 meeting. “It’s just as strong as the ag one we submitted. We believe in it.”

FRC submitted an application to offer a Bachelor of Science in Ecosystem Restoration and Applied Fire Management. Graduates will be trained to respond to, and help prevent, catastrophic wildfires that have damaged much of the region. The new degree proposal would equip students with the education and skills necessary to meet critical regional workforce needs related to healthy forest management, prescribed fire, and other techniques to promote healthy forest ecology, as well as restoration of burned forest and riparian ecosystems.

“Building upon the strengths of our million-acre classroom and Plumas County environment, an advanced degree related to forest health, fire prevention, and ecosystem restoration are a natural fit for Feather River College,” commented Dr. Kevin Trutna, FRC Superintendent/President.

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Graduates will be trained to utilize prescribed fire to restore ecosystems and treat the build-up of woody fuels through the use of fire and other techniques.  Training includes the restoration of burned forests and riparian systems, including supporting indigenous land management practices.  An important curriculum component also provides for restoring and protecting remaining landscapes that have not been significantly altered by fire.

“With the recent large-scale wildfires in California, graduates of the proposed program will provide an immediate workforce to address the impact of past, and help prevent future catastrophic fires,” added Dr. Trutna.  “We are hopeful the State will see this as a priority and approve this much needed program that improves the safety of California residents and helps preserve our resources.”

In creating the proposed degree, the Environmental Studies Department reached out to local and regional partners, who provided support, guidance, and preliminary feedback on curriculum development.  FRC faculty Dana Flett, Bridget Tracy, and Jon Dvorak collaborated with CSU faculty, UC faculty, fire agencies, indigenous leaders, and forest professionals to develop the upper-division new curriculum concept.  The proposed bachelor’s degree will supplement existing environmental science associate degrees at FRC.

Feather River College currently offers one bachelor’s degree in Equine and Ranch Management.  FRC has demonstrated the ability to design a successful bachelor’s degree responding to specific workforce needs.  Over the past five years, graduates have been successful in obtaining careers in the agricultural field.

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“This is an exciting time for FRC,” Dr. Kevin Trutna emphasized, “We cannot sit back and let large-scale wildfires destroy the West.  This degree proposal is specifically designed to develop leaders who address this issue not in theory, but working directly in the fields and forest.”

Feather River College is, and will remain a community college primarily focused on offering associate degrees and certificates.  If approved, both FRC bachelor’s degrees are from disciplines where FRC has demonstrated success, expertise, and resources to complement existing programs.  May 31 is the deadline for approval notification for the Bachelor of Science in Ecosystem Restoration and Applied Fire Management at Feather River College.

Watershed restoration would be one component of the new bachelor’s degree offered by FRC. Photo submitted