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Jo Ellen Force Receives Prestigious SAF Award

Jo Ellen Force

By Anthony Kuipers

Daily News staff writer

A University of Idaho faculty member in the College of Natural Resources will be recognized for 30 years of work in the forestry profession when she receives a national award this year.

The Society of American Foresters will present Jo Ellen Force, professor of Forest, Rangeland and Fire Sciences at UI, with the Gifford Pinchot medal—one of nine national awards the SAF is giving this year.

The award, which recognizes notable contributions from forest professionals in the United States, is presented only in odd-numbered years. She is the first woman to receive the award in its 63-year history.

Force said she is "quite humbled and quite honored" to receive an award named after the person considered the father of the American forestry profession. Pinchot started the SAF and established the American school of forestry at Yale University at the beginning of the 20th century. The national forest around Mount St. Helens is named after him.

Force has been teaching forest policy at the UI for 30 years and has been chairwoman of her department for 15 years. During that time, she's also served on the SAF Ethics Committee for five years and the society's Committee on Accreditation, which has accredited around 45 forestry programs in the United States. In total, she has served in or led 16 national SAF committees.

The SAF is recognizing her for these contributions, as well as for setting an example for women entering the forestry profession. Force was one of the first women elected as an SAF fellow, a distinction given to 600-700 of the society's 14,000 members, she said. She's been a fellow for 20 years, during which time the number of women with that title has increased.

Similarly, she was one of just three women working in the forestry department at UI when she started in the early 1980s. Though she said the UI department probably had the most women faculty of any such department in the U.S. during that period, they were still heavily in the minority.

She said they did not have any senior women faculty to look up to, so they felt it was their duty to be strong role models for the women students entering the program.

"All three of us, we felt we had a responsibility to set a good example, to be supportive and role models of young women as we've moved up in our careers," she said.

She has also contributed to Women in Natural Resources, a national publication started by a colleague that supports women going into the field, for 14 years.

Force will receive her medal during the annual SAF National Convention, scheduled for Oct. 23-27 in South Carolina.