By MATTHEW WEAVER
Washington State University Extension is putting its forestry courses online.
The extension service recently launched Forest Stewardship University, which is taught by experts and comparable to in-person forestry workshops, said Kevin Zobrist, WSU Extension educator.
He said the program faced dwindling staff and budgets at the same time it experienced increased demand for forestry workshops.
"We haven't had the staff time to keep up with demand and we haven't been able to reach landowners in some parts of the state," Zobrist said.
He developed some of the most popular workshops as online courses, available on demand.
The most popular classes cover the basics, such as tree and plant identification or understanding regulations and tax rules.
The primary audience is forest and small woodland owners in Washington. Zobrist hopes to help them get the most out of their forested properties.
"People are often mystified by their forest property, they're often intimidated by it," he said. "I think this gives landowners confidence that it's OK to manage and enjoy your forest."
The online university's forest health topics are going to help landowners recognize problems, understand what causes them and help prevent them.
"Our classes help landowners understand they can improve the health and habitat value of their forest and they can even make a little bit of income on the side," he said. "We're trying to make that type of education more accessible to more landowners."
Some classes also help professionals who work with forest owners, while others apply to members of the public who want to know more about forests.
Course fees begin at $5. Class costs vary depending on content, Zobrist said.
The classes are not for credit.
Several short classes are offered as free samples to allow participants to familiarize themselves with the format.
Zobrist hopes to add more classes in the future. All courses are peer-reviewed, to ensure the value of the WSU educational product, he said.