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Nature of Business

New Degree Prepares Students for Resource Management

Article by Kelsey Evans, CNR Editor

The bachelor’s of science in natural resource enterprise management (NREM), a new program in the department of Natural Resources and Society, combines traditional natural resource management curriculum with the College of Business and Economics’ entrepreneurship minor to teach students about private sector involvement, with attention to recreational perspectives.

The program will give students creative, entrepreneurial and private skills to manage natural resources, training them to be leaders who embrace the evolving relationships between landowners and government agencies.

“What’s happening in Idaho and across the country is that we are enjoying outdoor spaces more than ever. We need people who know how to steward and operate in those spaces. At U of I, we’ve been preparing students in conservation and recreation for decades, and now, we’ll be providing additional curriculum to address their interests — whether for starting a natural resource-related business, protecting an ecosystem using innovative methods, or both,” said Chris Zajchowski, assistant professor of parks, tourism and recreation ecology.

Zajchowski holds a joint position between U of I and the Department of Idaho Parks and Recreation.

The degree offers two emphasis areas: natural resources stewardship, which prepares students for the management of natural resources by the private, non-profit and public sectors, and natural resources development, which prepares students to manage their own natural resource-based businesses.

Chris Zajchowski, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Parks, Tourism, and Recreation Ecology

“Any career ranging from a recreation-oriented business, to working with the Bureau of Land Management or Idaho state parks, benefits from an entrepreneurship mindset,” Zajchowski said.

Workforce and Economic Need

With the world’s outdoor recreation economy being just shy of $1 trillion of output and growing, the degree is a timely addition to CNR’s programming.

Person holding a large fish horizontally with two hands
Jason Veeneman, a master’s student in natural resources, helps a high-school student catch a trout, summer 2023. Credit: Jason Veeneman.

The opportunities to advance business-oriented and private-sector approaches to natural resources management, outdoor recreation and conservation education have grown exponentially in recent years.

“It’s an innovative, interdisciplinary program that really benefits students for the way the market is moving, so that they can be nimble and respond to opportunities that don’t even exist yet,” Zachowski said.

Some of the opportunities the degree prepares students for can be found with Idaho’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which administers $10 million in state and federal grants a year to support outdoor recreation enterprises, infrastructure and development — and anyone in Idaho can apply for those funds. So, if a student wants to build a new boat ramp for their community, for example, they need to know about local ecology to how to navigate federal and state permit systems — in addition to forming a pitch, funding and marketing their idea.

“The degree allows a student to gain experience formulating ideas in a team setting while understanding policies for recreation and conservation locally, nationally and internationally,” Zajchowski said.

Jason Veeneman, a master’s student in natural resources, said the community mindset of outdoor management, recreation and education is essential. Veeneman is working with Zajchowski on an independent study for his capstone titled “Youth Engagement in Natural Resources.” For the project, Veeneman is organizing a future fly-fishing camp in partnership with Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit dedicated to freshwater conservation.

Students walk across campus.
NREM trains students to be leaders who embrace the evolving relationships between landowners and government agencies. Credit: University of Idaho Visual Productions.

“Chris is very practical, which has helped me put this study together in that it’s not just a project for a course — it’s a way to help a positive organization, Trout Unlimited, with outreach, recruitment and stream restoration projects,” Veeneman said.

For the camp, Veeneman is planning to have educational activities with fisheries and aquatic biologists, U.S. Forest Service employee and local fly fishers, and he is collaborating with local businesses including fly shops, lodging and restaurants.

“It’s a community mindset that’s entrepreneurial in nature, because we want to all support each other. It’s only through these local businesses and entrepreneurs in this industry that our conservation efforts and educational opportunities can happen. Without them and their dedication to our organization, we wouldn’t exist. And for the students, they get to see opportunities to work in outdoors sectors through either government agencies, but also through local businesses,” Veeneman said.

Given that Veeneman’s proposed camp is designed for older teenagers who are gearing up for college and future careers, it could directly encourage students to pursue NREM degree.

“There is a gap in education for the outdoor recreation industry for 18- to 25-year-olds and this type of camp will help fill it,” Veeneman said.

What’s happening in Idaho and across the country is that we are enjoying outdoor spaces more than ever. We need people who know how to steward and operate in those spaces. Chris Zajchowski, assistant professor of parks, tourism and recreation ecology

The Entrepreneurial Mindset

For the entrepreneurship side of the degree, students will start with an ideation and design course, and then move onto a second course, focused on feasibility analysis. Then, they will take “business models” to learn effective ways to bring that idea to the market through costumer relationships.

Students will then dive into their choice of relevant courses such as intellectual property, prototyping, small business marketing and financing, social ventures for non-profits, NGOs and technology start-ups.

The addition of natural resources students to entrepreneurship projects will make a crucial impact.

“Interdisciplinary teams are the hallmark of entrepreneurship. Less than half our students are business majors. We need biologists, engineers, communication students, computer scientists — every discipline,” said George Tanner, Idaho entrepreneur director and senior instructor of entrepreneurship in the College of Business and Economics.

CNR students will be able to connect their natural resource management ideas to not just fellow students, but other resources.

“Entrepreneurship is experiential, but we are trying to build real businesses, from idea to launch. And we use competition platforms to help fund those projects. That money goes directly to those students and their businesses,” Tanner said.

George Tanner

Idaho Entrepreneur Director and Senior Instructor- Entrepreneurship

332 J.A. Albertson Building


“As new CNR-specific courses are developed, natural resource ideas stay at the forefront of every program and course for NREM,” Tanner said.

Campus Locations

Physical Address:
Bruce M. Pitman Center
875 Perimeter Drive MS 4264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264

Phone: 208-885-6111

Fax: 208-885-9119