The South Dakota Board of Regents approved on Tuesday authorization for Black Hills State University to offer a specialization in Forest and Grassland Ecology within the Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. 

In addition to Regental approval, the BHSU Foundation received a gift of $345,000 from Neiman Enterprises Inc./Neiman Timber Co. LC. making this specialization possible. The gift will fund a faculty position and $15,000 annually for student scholarships for three years. 

BHSU President Laurie S. Nichols says, “BHSU is so grateful to the entire Neiman Enterprises family who made the forestry specialization possible for us. Without targeted start-up funds to assist in securing faculty expertise and recruitment scholarships, we would not be at this point today. We thank the Neimans for their partnership in this venture and for believing in BHSU to provide much needed education in forestry. It is our hope that we can now provide graduates who want to live and work in the Black Hills and who are committed to working in forestry or the forest products industry.”

Neiman Enterprises Inc. is a fourth-generation family business dedicated to the environment and quality products. The continued growth and survival of this family business depends on maintaining healthy forests. To achieve this, they are an active member with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. This initiative is dedicated to maintaining and preserving forests not only for industries dependent on timber, but also for private and public landowners. Neiman Enterprises Inc.’s commitment to sustainable forestry not only ensures the long term stability of their company, but also guarantees future resources through a cycle of renewability. The company continues to strive toward advances in renewable energy and value-added products to meet the demands of markets while maintaining a healthy environment.

BHSU will offer the Forest and Grasslands Ecology specialization in the West River region of the state where forest resources and related employment opportunities are located. There is state and regional demand for graduates with specific knowledge and technical skills necessary to meet workforce needs in agencies and the private sector. The U.S. Forest Service employs more than 30,000 individuals, with geographic concentrations matching the distribution of forest resources.  Degree programs in forestry, ecology, botany, and biology are preferred.

In the development of the specialization, BHSU officials worked with leaders at the Black Hills National Forest Service, S.D. State Parks, S.D. Conservation and Forestry, and lumber and forest businesses like Neiman Enterprises to learn about workforce needs. Their guidance was instrumental in not only thinking about developing this specialization to meet a dire workforce shortage, but also in developing learning outcomes via the curriculum. Nichols noted that talking to them about content and skills expertise of their employees was extremely helpful in developing the curriculum.

“As a member of the BHSU Climate Resiliency Task Force, I am very proud to see the University proactively take on tough challenges,” Marcus Neiman, Vice President of Neiman Enterprises, said. “Forests are one of our most precious natural resources and nationally we have critical shortages of personnel in the technical field of forestry.”

BHSU will now begin to market the new specialization which will begin this fall. The University has received interest from prospective students and expect new enrollments to BHSU with this new program. BHSU students currently pursuing a Biology degree will also have the option to select this new specialization option.