CEDAR CITY -- Southern Utah University and a state land agency have inked an agreement to let students and foresters use a local forest as a living laboratory.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that SUU and the state Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands will share use of the school's 2,200-acre Mountain Ranch on Cedar Mountain as a demonstration forest.
Forestry and fire officials will use the land to practice forest and fire management techniques. Students and faculty will use it to learn about forestry, agriculture and outdoor recreation.
"This is a great way to train students in ecology forestry," said SUU President Michael Benson. "We have the most unique mountain property of anywhere in the country."
The agreement, which will be in place for 20 years, was signed Aug. 31 by Benson and state forester Richard Buehler.
SUU acquired the Mountain Ranch land through donations that date back at least 80 years, said Brian Cottam, SUU's associate director for government relations and regional services. The property has been mainly used to study sheep grazing and the university manages herd of 400 animals.
The idea for a demonstration forest began to grow two years ago when an advisory council was formed with the state to discuss how the forest could be used for the benefit of all, said Cottam, whose office oversees the property.
The new demonstration program will be financed with a $100,000 federal stimulus grant and will dovetail with SUU's agriculture college and a degree program focusing on outdoor recreation in parks and tourism.
"With state forestry, we'll implement forest-management practices like timber cutting, logging, prescribed fires, fuels reduction and an array of projects for academic research," said Cottam. "It's mainly a place do these practices on the ground and educate other property owners."
Patrick Moore, state forester for southwestern Utah, said foresters will use the land to study wildlife, water and air-quality issues, forest restoration through harvesting, better logging practices and aspen rejuvenation.