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The mission of the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation is to educate the next generation of foresters and natural resource managers and to discover and disseminate the knowledge needed to sustainably manage and conserve forests and related environments.

Status and Ranking

According to the Journal of Forestry, our department is ranked #1 in North America based on a perception-based score plus a citation-and-publication-based index.

Academic Programs

We offer three undergraduate majors:

  • Forestry
  • Natural Resources Conservation
  • Environmental Resources Management

These majors include a variety of options or specializations—Forest Resources Management, Forest Operations and Business, Urban Forestry, Conservation and Recreation Management, Environmental Education,  Natural Resources Science Education, Environmental Resources Management, and Watershed Management.  We are in the process of developing an Environmental Informatics major and a degree in Water:  Resources, Policy and Management.   

The Forest Resources Management, Forest Operations and Business, and Urban Forestry options qualify graduates as professional foresters and are accredited by the Society of American Foresters, the recognized accrediting body.

Undergraduate enrollment 2011-12: 197

Undergraduate degrees awarded 2011-12: 52

We also offer three graduate degrees:

  • Master of Forestry
  • Master of Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy

The 2010 National Research Council report noted that our Ph.D. program is one of the best in the country.  As such, students come from all continents of the world to study with our faculty.  Students can specialize in:

  • Forest Biometrics and Geomatics
  • Forest Ecology and Silviculture
  • Forest Economics and Policy
  • Forest Genetics and Biotechnology
  • Forest Operations and Business
  • Forest Soils and Hydrology
  • Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Management
  • Urban Forestry

Graduate Enrollment 2011-12:  78

Graduate Degrees awarded 2011-12:  21


Nationally and internationally recognized faculty lead our research programs.  Our research is diverse and focuses on critical natural resources and environmental issues from many disciplinary perspectives.  From the conservation and management of protected areas and economic policy to forest soil productivity, urbanization, and genomics, we seek to discover new knowledge and technology to address the global challenges to come.

Our research centers include the Center for Environmental Applications of Remote Sensing, the Forest Productivity Cooperative, the Forest Modeling Research Cooperative, and the NSF Center for Advanced Forestry Systems.  We utilize state-of-the-art laboratories in Cheatham and Latham Halls, our local 1,300-acre Fishburn Forest, and the 780-acre Reynolds Homestead Forest Resources Research Station to conduct transformational research.

2011 Research expenditures:  $5.9 million

2011 refereed publications:  76


The department has 23 tenure-track faculty, 15 research and extension faculty, 2 postdoctoral associates, 5 technical staff, and 5 office support staff.  We are proud to have a University Distinguished Professor, an Alumni Distinguished Professor, and three Named Professors in the department.                                                                                                                

Strategic Plan

We have initiated the process to develop our new strategic plan for 2012-17.  Here is our current 2007-12 Strategic Plan.

Our History

Forestry education began at Virginia Tech more than 100 years ago.  The first forestry classes were taught at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1902, and the first forestry professor was hired in 1925.  By 1931 students could study field horticulture, landscape design, and the chemical properties of sprays used to protect orchards.  In 1938 students could earn a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Forestry.

At VPI, forestry grew steadily during the 1950s, as students formed a forestry club, attended 12-week forestry camps and instructional field days, and published a yearbook called The Virginia Tech Forester.  The Department of Forestry and Wildlife, housed within the College of Agriculture, was created in 1959.  Faculty were recruited, and in 1968 the voters of Virginia approved a bond of $1.6 million to provide a new building.  Plans were soon underway for the construction of Cheatham Hall, a building that greatly surpassed most of the other academic buildings on campus in terms of classroom and laboratory space.

By 1969 the Department of Forestry and Wildlife had become the fastest growing department on campus, having grown in ten years from 66 undergraduates and 5 graduate students to 346 undergraduates and 52 graduate students.  That same year Forestry and Wildlife Sciences became a division within the College of Agriculture, and by 1974 the division had split into two departments—Forestry and Forest Products, and Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences. By 1978 the faculty had grown to 58, undergraduate enrollment was up to 828, and graduate students numbered 148.  In 1976 the division became the School of Forestry and Wildlife Resources, still within the College of Agriculture, and in 1979, the Department of Forestry and Forest Products divided into two separate departments.  The College of Forestry and Wildlife Resources became the ninth college at Virginia Tech in 1993. 

In 2008 the Department of Forestry name was changed to Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation (FREC) to better reflect the depth and breadth of our programs and to increase our relevance to the society.  Today FREC is one of four departments within the College of Natural Resources and Environment, the other three being Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Sustainable Biomaterials, and Geography.

About Us

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About Cheatham Hall 


FREC Strategic Plan


2015 FREC Annual Report


Fall 2016 FREC Newsletter

View Archive Newsletters 


FREC Career Book


FREC Course Cards

FREC YouTube Videos

FREC Undergraduate Checksheets

Undergraduate Brochure (pdf)

Graduate Brochure (pdf)