April 22, 2005

Department Letter to President

April 22, 2005

Dr. Robert Bruininks, President
University of Minnesota
202 Morrill Hall
100 Church Street S.E.
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Re: Implications for the College of Natural Resources (CNR)
and stakeholders in research, education and outreach.

Dear Dr. Bruininks:

Faculty in the Department of Forest Resources appreciated your visit last week and the chance to provide input to the University's important strategic positioning process. We applaud your interest in strengthening the institution and particularly its components that address natural resources and the environment. However, the suggestions from the planning process as yet are quite limited--in some areas they do not go far enough, in others they could be very damaging, and in still other areas they omit mention of important existing structures, linkages, and institution building steps. As a consequence, faculty have gathered to offer suggestions in key areas as noted below. Attention to these would make a major difference in process and outcomes and provide for both early accomplishments and a lasting legacy of success.

This essence of our suggestions address:

- Strategy for building an effective natural resources and environment structure
- Components of a College of Natural Resources and the Environment
- Building the St. Paul Campus
- Enhancing linkages to MNSCU
- Incorporating state agency interests

Additionally, we have included an attachment to aid understanding of what the present CNR does for the University and the state.

Strategy for building an effective natural resources and environment structure
We recommend several steps: (1) A renaming of the existing CNR to "College of Natural Resources and the Environment (CNRE)," (2) building on this already strong and nationally recognized College as the core, and (3) adding at least several departments or program elements from across the Twin Cities Campus. We further urge that these changes be developed with minimal disruption to student and other stakeholder interests.

Rationale: A simple combining of the College of Natural Resources (CNR) with the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science (COAFES) does not make sense operationally and it would be viewed beyond the University as a step backward. While there is considerable faculty interaction across the CNR/COAFES boundaries, these colleges identify with quite different audiences, and the audiences also view them quite differently. CNR worked towards autonomy from agriculture programs for seven decades. In fact, the effort to gain separation and associated building of CNR is a major reason behind our high national rankings (Forestry #1 undergraduate program, # 6 graduate program, and natural resources overall ranked #7 in the recent Gourman report). Dismembering this progress with but a few discussions among a very small group, and especially without consultation with CNR faculty and stakeholders around the state is fundamentally unwise.

CNR programs are unique in the state and have served citizens, communities, industry, and government statewide for over a century. Further, there are simply no substantial programs like those in CNR nationally that lie in colleges of agriculture. We know from experience that an agricultural environment effectively limits the expression of autonomy and associated focus for our programs to be visible and effective. Additionally, the peer institutions described in the positioning documents and discussion so far are not effective models for natural resources and the environment. Instead, those are programs that are widely viewed as having lost their focus and effectiveness. We also know that the uncertainty from disruptive actions can irrevocably damage important student and stakeholder linkages.

Components of a College of Natural Resources and the Environment
We recommend that the new CNRE incorporate both disciplinary inquiry and integrating functions in designing departmental or other units. Additionally, this new college would include faculty to address the full array of environmental systems as well as land uses and natural resources and environmental management and policy.

Rationale: Full physical and biological science as well as management and policy coverage is crucial to overall effectiveness, both in research and in translation. Disciplinary focused science units can foster basic research yet can easily become silos. Integrating units can be catalysts for focusing the capabilities of a number of units and also provide for curriculum support and the translation sought by stakeholders. Since unit specification or building is crucial to CNRE success, we will be sending an additional message on this subject.

Building the St. Paul Campus
We recommend that the St. Paul Campus be developed as a full service campus. As budgets have declined, various instruction and associated support have been withdrawn from the St. Paul Campus. This has occurred over a number of decades with increasing subtle focus on the Twin Cities Campus rather than St. Paul as an important unit by itself. Thus today students in St. Paul Campus majors are disadvantaged by having to travel between St. Paul and the Minneapolis Campus for much of their basic coursework. The transit time uses approximately 1/6th of a day and effectively slows graduation rates. Given often crowded conditions on the Minneapolis Campus, it makes no sense to send large numbers of students there when sending a small number of faculty to St. Paul would cost effectively alleviate the problem.

Rationale: To fulfill its anticipated broader mission, the new College will have to invest considerable faculty time in transit to Minneapolis to reach more students (majors and nonmajors) or St. Paul students will still have to spend much of their time in transit. We note it appears to be much farther from Minneapolis to St. Paul than from St. Paul to Minneapolis. Given this situation, we recommend that a limited number of Minneapolis Campus faculty be permanently moved to St. Paul to offer basic 1xxx-5xxx courses. We believe there is space to house them either as a new liberal arts and science unit or as a St. Paul base of operations for existing units. Given that step, St. Paul could also become a full service campus serving several thousand more students, especially if a dorm was added (we note the University has 11 dormitories, with only one in St. Paul). Given these steps, the St. Paul Campus could add immeasurably to the University by its strengths in the areas of natural resources and the environment and food and agriculture statewide. A full service St. Paul campus would also enhance existing and provide new connections to St. Paul and surrounding communities.

Enhancing linkages to MNSCU
We recommend that 2+2 linkages to MNSCU be revisited, especially for unique programs in the existing CNR that have served students statewide.

Rationale: The majority of CNR admissions and probably those for the new CNRE programs will be transferring in from University Twin Cities programs or MNSCU programs. In recent years as transfer information has been moved to the web, numerous explicit and visible linkages to University of Minnesota programs have been lost. With unique and widely recognized curricula, it makes no sense to duplicate them in MNSCU. Yet the strategic positioning messages from the University may discourage qualified students. Consequently, we will want to ensure that students receive a clear message about the continuation of unique and strong programs.

Incorporating state agency interests
We recommend the continuation and further building of linkages with state agencies and nongovernmental stakeholder organizations as part of our historic land grant mission.

Rationale: As a land grant institution, the CNR has a long history of research, technology transfer, training, and service to state agencies, notably the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Add to this our numerous linkages with county and local government and NGOs in the area of natural resources and the environment. Examples are the joint Federal - State - University Fisheries and Wildlife Cooperative, the new Interagency Information Cooperative, the Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory, the Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit, and the Tourism Center. These linkages have had many benefits to the state. With respect to government in particular, clear identification of state agency interests and co-location of such programs within the College where feasible can greatly strengthen the University's contributions to the state while also enhancing education, research, and outreach.

We hope these suggestions are helpful as you develop your recommendations to move the University forward.


Alan R. Ek
Professor and Head
and the Faculty of the Department of Forest Resources

C: E. T. Sullivan, Sr. Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost
S. G. Stafford, Dean, College of Natural Resources


Attachment: What does the CNR do for the University and the State:

The University of Minnesota's CNR is the only higher education and research institution in the state that offers bachelors, masters, and Ph.D degrees in the areas of forestry, fisheries, wildlife conservation, forest products and other aspects of our natural resources and the environment. As part of the University's Agricultural Experiment Station and Extension Service, it is also charged with research and outreach in these areas statewide. The CNR has been serving in these roles since 1903 and its programs are internationally recognized and ranked among the top such programs in the nation.

The CNR's support to state environment and natural resource issues and problem solving may be described in several ways. First, in terms of coverage, the CNR provides service to issue areas including: land, water, animals, human enterprises, and human social systems. Briefly, the CNR has played major roles with respect to forest and wildlife management, sustainable economic development, and land and water resources conservation and use. These partnerships with state and local government entities, industry, and NGOs on important issues span more than a century. At the same time, the faculty of CNR have contributed measurably to identifying and resolving issues in sustainable natural resource management nationally and globally.

Second, in terms of structure and linkages, the CNR efforts currently include departments of (1) Forest Resources, (2) Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, (3) Bio-based Products and supporting units such as the Cloquet Forestry Center, Water Resources Center, and the Bell Museum of Natural History plus numerous technically focused centers such as the Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory, the Center for Integrated Agriculture and Natural Resource Management, the Tourism Center, and more. Further, the CNR programs include staff located in St. Paul, Grand Rapids, Cloquet and Rochester.

Third, in terms of broad subject matter areas, CNR conducts research and training (by itself or in partnerships) in areas such as:

Forest Management
Fisheries and Wildlife Management
Parks, Recreation Resource Management, and Resource Based Tourism
Resource Conservation and Environmental Management
Urban and Community Forest and Related Resource Management
Water Resources Management
Sustainable development

Fourth, in terms of specific subject matter addressed in research, education, and outreach, the CNR coverage includes:

Conservation of plant and animal biodiversity
Economics, policy, and planning in environment and natural resource management
Fisheries and wildlife conservation and management
Forest biology, ecology and genetics
Forest management
Forest and ecosystem health including fire, insects, disease and invasive species
Human dimensions of natural resources and the environment
Parks, recreation resource management
Resource based Tourism
Remote sensing and geospatial analysis
Resource monitoring
Resource analysis
Urban and community forestry
Utilization, development of new products, marketing
Water quality and watershed management

Fifth, some of the major natural resource issues currently being addressed by CNR include:

Adapting to climate change
Biomass usage and bio-refining technologies
Competitive strategies for natural resource industries in a globalizing economy
Effective transportation systems for natural resource industries
Guidelines for mitigating biomass harvesting impacts
Monitoring land use change and developing strategies for conservation of biodiversity
Strategies for sustaining threatened and endangered species
Processes and methodologies for improving environmental impact assessment
Potentials for carbon sequestration in forest management
Sustainable and productive natural resource management strategies
Watershed management strategies for state river systems
Importantly, CNR efforts on these issues range from local to global in scale

Clearly, the above areas are of great importance to Minnesotans. Maintaining this coverage, particularly the continuing ability to address state issues and problem solving, is a vital consideration in strategic positioning. Further, emerging local to global environmental issues will require strengthening the University in areas germane to the environment and natural resources.

Posted by aek at 4:46 PM

April 20, 2005

Timber Bulletin article

Timber Bulletin, March/April 2005, vol. 1, page 16.
Download file

Posted by schre006 at 12:21 PM

April 15, 2005

Statement by Alan R. Ek, Head, Department of Forest Resources

The University's Strategic Positioning efforts have important implications for natural resources education, research and outreach. I applaud efforts to strengthen these areas. However, the suggestions from the planning process as yet are quite limited--in some areas they do not go far enough, in others they could be very damaging, and in still other areas they omit mention of important existing structures, linkages, and institution building steps. We encourage department faculty, staff, student, alumni and other stakeholder input on this process.

The strategic positioning process is described at the following link: References to the College of Natural Resources can be found on pages 32-34 of the "Academic Task Force Recommendations Report." The "Statement of Recommendation" for this section reads: "We recommend for consideration that a Task Force be charged with developing and implementing a reconfiguration of the sciences and engineering that best integrates and promotes academic synergies, teaching and research among four current colleges: CBS, IT, CNR and COAFES." The report further states that "Five important strategies must be achieved through this reconfiguration and integration." One of these strategies states: "Realigning and integrating CNR into a broader framework that strengthens environmental science and increases administrative efficiency."

Comment is invited here and readers are also encouraged to contact Central Administration at: and
Board of Regents at: or
individually at:

Posted by schre006 at 2:33 PM