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Learning about prescribed fire will be part of the new provisional Ecosystem Restoration and Applied Fire Management bachelor's degree offered by Feather River College. Photo courtesy of FRC

FRC provisionally adds second bachelor’s degree: Ecosystem Restoration and Applied Fire Management

Feather River College received provisional approval for a bachelor’s degree in Ecosystem Restoration and Applied Fire Management.  This is the second bachelor’s degree offered from FRC, building upon the existing Equine and Ranch Management degree that graduated its first class in 2018.  AB 927 (Medina) authorizes California community colleges to approve statewide up to 30 bachelor’s degrees yearly, regulating that they focus on career or technical training and requiring that programs do not duplicate any existing CSU or UC bachelor’s degree.

The new FRC degree in Ecosystem Restoration and Applied Fire Management will prepare students to work as land managers with specific skills in forest and stream restoration and the application of fire on the landscape. The hands-on degree trains students to directly enter the workforce understanding large landscape-scale issues and engage in system-level responses to challenges.  FRC graduates will possess skills in: data and geospatial fields; environmental policy and management planning; professional communication; information about the historical and cultural context related to natural resources and ecosystem management in the West; prescribed fire and fuels management techniques and receive National Wildfire Coordination Group (NWCG) certifications; forest ecosystem management and reforestation; and watershed restoration.

Upon completion of the Bachelor of Science degree in Ecosystem Restoration and Applied Fire Management, students will be able to:

  • Measure and analyze environmental data and variables
  • Use geospatial tools to map and analyze ecosystems and management projects
  • Safely plan for and use prescribed fire as restoration and management tool
  • Hold National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) certifications for various skills related to wildland fire
  • Plan and execute effective forest and fuels management, and reforestation work
  • Plan and execute effective riparian restoration work
  • Explain social, historical, and political factors that influence land management in Western states
  • Understand the value of cultural competency, the vital roles of indigenous land management practices and traditional ecological knowledge, and ways to support tribal capacity
  • Communicate effectively about complex ecosystem processes and project planning

“With the passage of AB 927 legislation, FRC is in a prime location to build upon the strengths of its million acre classroom and High Sierra ecosystem.  The Dixie Fire and other catastrophic wildfires have taught us to prepare the next level of graduates for the workforce in protecting our environment,” stated Dr. Kevin Trutna, FRC Superintendent/President.  An important curriculum component also provides for restoring and protecting remaining landscapes that have not been significantly altered by wildfire.  Dr. Trutna added, “There are many ways to manage and protect the High Sierra.  This new degree trains students to enter the workforce in fire prevention, management, and restoration.”

FRC faculty Dana Flett, Bridget Tracy, and Jon Dvorak collaborated with CSU faculty, UC faculty, fire agencies, local leaders, and forest professionals to develop the graduation outcomes for the new curriculum.  The existing environmental science associate degree at FRC provides the foundation for the bachelor’s degree.

“Provisional Approval” means the California Community College Chancellor’s Office has approved the new bachelor’s degree as policy compliant and it has passed a program quality score.  The degree is pending ACCJC accreditation approval as well as intersegmental consultation with CSU and UC programs.  Once these remaining steps are completed, then the California Community College Board of Governors can grant “Full Approval” of the new degree in Ecosystem Restoration and Applied Fire Management, and FRC can make the degree available to students.

In 2014, FRC was one of the 15 California community colleges granted the authority in a pilot program to offer a vocational bachelor’s degree.  In January 2022, 10 colleges applied for bachelor’s degrees under the newly enacted AB 927.  Feather River College is the only California community college to seek approval under both opportunities.  Dr. Trutna stated, “I can assure the public that FRC will remain, first-and-foremost, a community college.  The two bachelor’s degrees were strategically chosen because they meet specific workforce needs for Plumas County and northeast California.  They also build upon existing associate degree programs with long histories of producing successful graduates serving Plumas County.  FRC is happy to make this expansion to provide a trained workforce for the region.”

Dr. Trutna added, “This is an incredible time for FRC.  We are poised to proactively train students to combat the destructive nature of catastrophic wildfires in the West.  This new degree cannot be found elsewhere in California.  Rather it was strategically designed to develop leaders who are skilled to address critical Sierra Nevada ecosystems, not in theory, but working directly in the fields and forests.”

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