New Forest Finance Initiative

May 28, 2015
Contact:

Tim Lucas, 919-613-8084, tdlucas@duke.edu

Over the past 30 years, Duke forestry graduates have played leading roles in transforming how private forests in the United States are managed and valued for both timber and conservation objectives.

An innovative new initiative being developed at the Nicholas School aims to give current and future students the skills they’ll need to continue providing leadership for generations to come.

The Forest Finance Initiative will include new masterslevel courses, a certificate program, student internships and scholarships, executive education courses and a speaker series. Students accepted into the program will be trained in a broad array of skills critical to forest management today, including forest valuation, income opportunities through ecosystem services, how to structure conservation easements, investment fund structuring, risk assessment, financial reporting, and tax considerations.

The four-course certificate program is tentatively slated to begin in 2016. Individual courses in forest finance may be offered starting this fall.

“By summer, we plan to form a search committee and start recruiting a new faculty member, a chaired professor of the practice in forest finance, to head the program,” says Jeffrey R. Vincent, Clarence F. Korstian Professor of Forest Economics and Management.

Vincent is working with Nicholas School Dean Alan R. Townsend, members of the Duke faculty, Duke alumni, forest industry and conservation professionals, and the Nicholas School Office of External Affairs to develop the initiative.

Some of the program’s components are already in place, he notes. A Duke Environmental Leadership Program executive education course on timberland investment was first offered last year and proved to be very popular. A new speaker series, featuring some of the world’s top experts in forest management and environmental markets, was launched this spring. And forest alumni have been assisting with internship placements.

The new initiative is being developed in response to growing global demand for a new breed of forest managers, Vincent explains.

“Private forests increasingly are managed by timberland investment management organizations and real estate investment trusts, whose business models reflect a broad concept of forest finance,” he says. “They’ve realized that, compared to the stock market, returns on timber production are steady and not very risky, and potentially can be bolstered by payments for carbon storage, watershed protection and other ecosystem services.”

The creation of forestland as a new asset class and the emergence of new environmental markets has spurred demand for forest managers who are as adept at financial analysis as they are at resource management.

“Until now we haven’t trained master’s students in both skill sets,” Vincent says. “This is the perfect time to do it, given the need for professionals with these skills, and the growing interest in finance as a distinctive area of focus for the Nicholas School in the case of not only forests but also water and energy.”

The new certificate program and courses will be open to Nicholas School Master of Environmental Management and Master of Forestry students, as well as students pursing master’s degrees in related fields at other Duke professional schools.

For information about the new Forest Finance Initiative, contact Vincent at jeff.vincent@duke.edu or (919) 613-8025.

Tim Lucas is senior writer for Dukenvironment magazine and the Nicholas School’s director of marketing communications.