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To provide Cal Poly students, faculty, staff and the public with a unique interdisciplinary environment in which to foster the Learn by Doing philosophy by providing educational experiences on a working ranch, supporting diversified agriculture and forest resources while maintaining the integrity of ranch operations.

  —Our Mission

NR 474 Forest Stewardship Practices and NR 475 Senior Project - Forest Stewardship

NR 475

Course Overview

The combined courses NR 474 Forest Stewardship Practices and NR 475 Senior Project - Forest Stewardship are offered as 12-unit field-based course during the summer quarter. The class spans about 6 weeks total: four weeks (July 6 - 31) in residence at Swanton Pacific Ranch  and 13 days (Aug 1 - August 13) off site of required independent work. This course is useful for students of Forestry and Natural Resources; however, this course will greatly benefit students studying different aspects of natural resource and environmental management. The course presents a series of topics pertinent to the development and review of a Timber Harvest Management Plan (THP).

The cost for the Summer 2020 year's course will be approximately $3,900, which covers week-day food, housing, course materials, and registration through Extended Education.

Deadline for application is January 20, 2020. It will take some time to go through the process of applying, so students are encouraged to act early and persistently until the application is completed. 

Industry and Agency Professional Oversight

The course is delivered by leading resource management professionals, who contribute their on-the-ground perspectives regarding effective and informed land management. Guest instructors include more than 40 resource managers, planners and agency professionals involved in the process of Timber Harvest Management Plan writing, field preparation, and review. These professionals also attend class and field-based training to assist in the delivery of information and provide informed feedback to assist students during class activities.

Field and Classroom-based Training

Course work includes classroom-based introduction on topics involved in the development of a Timber Harvest Management Plan (THP). Classroom-based instruction is followed by field-based activities necessary for gaining technical skills included in THP development and for the process of preparing the landscape for a timber harvest. Topic areas include resource inventory, timber harvesting practices, permitting/regulations, and environmental/cultural protection measures. In addition to the time spent on-site and in the field, students will also travel on a field trip through northern California to gain perspective of various harvest practices and monitoring efforts implemented elsewhere in the state.

Course Substitution

The following are approved course substitutions for this course

  • FNR – NR 435, NR 465 and Senior Project (plus 1 unit of NR 400)
  • ENVM – NR 435, NR 465 and Senior Project (plus 1 unit of NR 400
  • EESS – Senior Project and 9 units of Approved Electives


Applying for Summer 2020

NOTE: Deadline for completing all but the very last step is January 20, 2020, 5 pm.

NOTE: Please check back in at a later date for information on Summer 2021.

STEP #1 – Apply 

STEP #2 – Work with your Academic Advisor to create a class schedule plan, showing how SPR will help you graduate

STEP #3 – Approvals

    • Department Major Approval
      • You will need approval of your appropriate major advisor:
        • Dr. Samantha Gill, FNR
        • Dr. Chris Surfleet, EESS
        • Dr. Priya Verma, ENVM
    • Swanton Pacific Ranch Approval
      • Once your major advisor signs the form, email a scanned copy of your form to Grey Hayes, who will need to work with instructor Dietterick for final approval:
        • Approval is on a first-come-first served basis
        • Some spots are reserved for FNR majors
        • Some applicants may be placed on a waitlist; waitlisted people will be notified of availability of space one week after Extended Education registration opens
        • You will receive email confirmation and registration opening date notification

Student Testimonials

"Focused, well planned, extremely interactive, provided incredible opportunity, and made great connection with people in many fields".

"I think it was the best class I've ever taken. Soon after hearing the presentations I was totally inspired to get my RPF".

"I felt the class was a great opportunity and very valuable to my future. The best class I've ever taken both educationally and recreationally".

"I enjoyed it a lot. It gave me a head start with my career in forestry".

"Excellent class! It was great to be introduced to industry professionals and very practical coursework".

"It's made me a better student and pushed my limits. I'll be better for it".

"Great! I learned so much and the diverse lectures kept my interest".

Professional Testimonials

"This class is exactly what Al Smith would have wanted". -Eric Huff, Executive Officer Forest, BOF 

A recent article, NR 475: Learning by Doing at Cal Poly's Swanton-Pacific Ranch featured the course as a valuable contribution to forestry education in California, "What sets this course apart from the standard forestry curricula is that students are immersed in the real-life world of timber harvesting in this state. They work in groups to develop a harvesting plan that they will later have to defend in a mock pre-harvest inspection conducted by actual agency review team members, providing the students with a social perspective that could not be taught so effectively any other way". 
-Licensing News, Volume 24 - Issue 2, Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, Professional Foresters Registration Program, Fall 2009

"The program works very well. Great setting, well prepared and engaged students, facilities and equipment were excellent". -Mark Stopher, Environmental Program Manager, CDFW

"I appreciate the opportunity to share my experience, philosophy and opinions with the motivated and focused 475 students. I appreciated their attention". -David Van Lennep, Redwood Empire Sawmills

"Teaching facilities, field sites, accommodations, support, curriculum, students and camaraderie all were excellent". -Dr. Ron Taskey, Soil Scientist

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