University News

WIU Adding a New Community Forestry Minor

May 11, 2023

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MACOMB, IL – The Western Illinois University School of Agriculture will begin offering a new Community Forestry minor, beginning in the Fall 2023 semester.

Forestry Instructor Paul Blome brings 35 years of professional experience to the classroom, preparing his students for a personally-satisfying career in community forestry. Eighteen credit hours are required for the minor, with courses including Principles in Community Forestry, Woody Plant ID and Dendrology, as well as Tree Care Science – Arboriculture. Electives in the minor also include an advanced course in Community Forest Management, as well as a field skills course that focuses on tree climbing, pruning and tree removal.

Blome said the driving force behind adding the minor comes from employers in the community forestry industry, which is experiencing a shortage of potential employees with tree-related experience. Classroom experiences are enhanced by several industry professionals who visit the classes each semester as guest speakers to offer hands-on experiences and promote their numerous job openings to the students. The minor is open to students from any academic unit at the University.

Community Forestry career opportunities are readily available in communities of any size from coast-to-coast, and internationally, although there are more in higher population areas and stronger economies.

"Besides the strong job market in the industry, graduates gain the personal satisfaction that they are making their community a better place for themselves, their families and future generations" said Blome. "It's an additional credential for a resume, and the industry is hungry for people who want to make the world a better place with trees."

Trees provide a myriad of community benefits, including environmental, economic, sociological and psychological. Tree benefits increase as trees grow in size and age.

"Professionals who know how to keep trees healthy are improving the quality of life in communities now and for decades to come," said Blome.

The coursework will include tree plantings on campus and Arbor Day celebrations provided at local elementary schools. Additionally, Blome is the advisor to the WIU Forestry Club, which provides student members with local experience protecting ash trees from emerald ash borers, as well as the occasional pruning and removing of trees for customers in the community. These experiences impress potential employers who see the value in graduates who have actually gained applicable job skills while in school.

Western Illinois University's Macomb campus has over 200 species of trees and shrubs, and there are countless opportunities on campus and in the surrounding community where students can learn and practice community forestry from planting, pruning, inventorying, diagnosing and treating trees. Blome said a future goal would be to get the Macomb campus designated as an arboretum for the benefit of the University and surrounding community.

"People feel good about what they do when their activities make the community better," said Blome. "People who come into the Community Forestry program will gain skills to make positive contributions to their community."

For more information about the Community Forestry program, contact Blome at

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