By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

SALEM -- A legislative subcommittee has advanced a bill to establish a fund dedicated to professional forestry education in Oregon.

House Bill 4002 also would create a forest education council to help develop criteria aimed at educating and training professional foresters.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, and backed by the Oregon Forest Industries Council.

Ray Wilkeson, president of the council, said the bill is aimed at ensuring Oregon State University's College of Forestry continues to focus curriculum on professional forestry education.

"This bill is designed to create a mechanism that will allow us to strengthen the public-private partnership we have with Oregon State to make sure that the core curriculum at Corvallis in the forestry school is maintained," he said Feb. 22 before the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education.

"There has been a trend around the country that we have noticed in recent years that is troubling to us where other universities that formerly had very good professional forestry schools have gotten away from the professional training regime that is important for the future of the forest industry," Wilkeson said.

"That professional degree program at Oregon State is essential to our future," he said.

HB4002 dedicates no money to the fund, but Wilkeson said, funding could be forthcoming.

"In conversations we've had with the college in recent months, there have been suggestions that maybe we could increase our financial commitment, and I think we would be willing to do that, particularly if (the college) addresses the curriculum and the workforce needs that we have in the future," Wilkeson said.

The committee unanimously moved the bill with a do-pass recommendation to the full Ways and Means Committee.

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