The University of Montana is adding Peru to its international stable of forestry partners.
Peruvian Ambassador Harold Forsyth on Monday announced a cooperative agreement with UM’s College of Forestry and Conservation that will send American students to the woods and rivers of the South American nation and vice versa.
Forsyth made the announcement during the first panel discussion in Butte at the Montana Economic Development Summit.
The idea, said UM Dean Jim Burchfield, is for Montana students to cooperate on forestry-related research and education programs with students from Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, the national agricultural university in Lima.
“It’ll typically be a faculty member from each university working together with Peruvian and University of Montana students who’ll work side by side on short-term assignments, probably for a month or two months,” Burchfield said.
It’s the latest addition to a series of involvements with international forestry type programs. UM has worked with Namibia and Zambia on resource protection issues and with northern India and Bhutan on sustainable tourism.
“These have taken a decade to develop and finally get to a point where we’ve trained PhD students and graduates of the University of Montana who are now key members of faculties in southern Africa and Bhutan,” Burchfield said. “We’re really proud that we’re making an impact all around the world.”
Burchfield traveled to the Amazon region of Peru last January through a program with the U.S. Forest Service’s international program office in Washington. Peru has projects to look at forest governance and wildlife and protected area management opportunities.
“Since we do so much of that kind of work here at the College of Forestry and Conservation, they were asking for our technical assistance as far as faculty and student exchanges,” Burchfield said.
The universities’ partnership was forged last week when Forsyth and Burchfield connected on U.S. Sen. Max Baucus’ Ambassadors’ Tour stopped in Missoula.
Burchfield said his travels in Peru were eye-opening – and projects there would be “fantastic” for his students at UM.
“There’s no question that the experience of the tropical forest would be really transformative and exciting for our students, to see different adaptations, to observe wildlife and to recognize the different kinds of ecological relationships in a tropical ecosystem,” he said.
“It’s just an amazing place, and Montana’s an amazing place. For Peruvian students to get a chance to observe our management of our beautiful national forests and national parks, it would be exciting for them.”
It will take at least 12 months to get an effective, meaningful relationship started.
“We’re not going everywhere,” Burchfield said. “We want to build these with a strong foundation.”
UM president Royce Engstrom’s vision to engage students in global leadership was a critical factor in forging the partnership with the Peruvian university, the forestry school dean added.
“My goal as part of the college is to be able to increase the opportunities for student and to encourage that global perspective,” said Burchfield. “We live in an interdependent world and I think that mobilizes our students and inspires them to recognize that they’re parts of a much larger whole.”