A History of the Department
The Department of Natural Resources & the Environment (NREN) has a long history of teaching, research, and outreach at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). Even before the first forestry programs began in 1911, soil and forestry courses were part of the New Hampshire College of Agriculture’s curriculum. These courses also ensure, even today, that UNH meets its land grant responsibilities as defined by the Morrill Act of 1862.

In the early 1970s, the Wildlife and Forestry programs merged with Soils, Hydrology, and Resource Economics to form the Institute of Natural and Environmental Sciences (INER). Formed in response to growing interest in conservation and the environment, INER meant to “be concerned through teaching, research, and service, with the wholeness of the relationship between [humans] and [their] surroundings…”[i] Though eventually dissolved in 1983 due to perceived threats to the professional accreditation of the forestry program, these ideals exist within NREN to this day.

Following INER’s dissolution, the Hydrology Program became part of the Department of Earth Sciences; Resource Economics & Community Development became its own department; and the Forestry, Soils, Wildlife, and Environmental Conservation Programs merged into the Department of Forest Resources. In 1988 the Department of Forest Resources added a Water Resources Management Program. With this growing scope, the name of Forest Resources no longer properly encompassed everything the department had to offer, and it was renamed the Department of Natural Resources in 1989. Not long after, the Soil Science, Water Resources Management, and Hydrology Programs from the Department of Earth Sciences were combined to create the Environmental Sciences undergraduate program.

NREN Today
Eventually, the Department of Natural Resources was reorganized so that it could fully address the human dimensions of natural resources, environmental problems, and provide a stronger foundation for the teaching of ecology in the social sciences. As such, the Departments of Natural Resources and Resource Economics & Community Development merged in 2008 to create NREN. This change helped to better integrate applied social sciences and natural resource sciences and enable a more holistic approach to education, research, and outreach about the use and conservation of resources. In addition, NREN now oversees the Forest Technology Associates Program since the reorganization of the Thompson School of Applied Science in 2018.

Forestry Program Accreditation
As for NREN’s oldest program, the Bachelor of Science in Forestry (B.S.F.) is a professional degree accredited by the Society of American Foresters (SAF) since 1959. The SAF is also the only accrediting board for such programs in the U.S. and the UNH program is one of the only accredited undergraduate forestry degrees in New England as only four such programs exist in the region. As part of the SAF accreditation process, the B.S.F. and its curriculum undergo both a periodic internal review every five years and an external review every ten years. The most recent external review occurred in May 2019 and the SAF Committee on Accreditation has granted continued accreditation to the forestry curriculum leading to a B.S.F. degree through December 31, 2029

Regarding the accreditation process, the forestry program must meet the following standards:

                - Forestry Program, Mission, Goals, & Objectives
                - Curriculum
                - Forestry Program Organization & Administration
Parent Institution Support

LEED Gold Certification
Finally, to better align with departmental values, renovations started on James Hall – the building which houses NREN – in 2008 to make it “green.” The building itself has existed since 1929. Headed by Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering P.C., the company completed the environmentally friendly changes to James Hall in January of 2010. With the renovations finished, the building was the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold Certified Building on campus. This certification hangs above the landing of the down staircase located by the main entrance.

The renovation increased the size of James Hall by 14,000 square feet, using 75% of the existing exterior walls, floors, and roof. Historic architectural elements of the nearly 100-year-old building were salvaged and restored to maintain the character of James Hall. Of note is the wooden Charles Hitchcock New Hampshire Geological Relief Map from 1878 restored by Professor Emeritus of Geology, Wally Bothner. Moved from the basement, the map now hangs above the 3rd-floor landing of the up staircase by the main entrance. Some of the other historical items preserved in the renovation process include:

                - A four-story staircase that includes brass handrails and light fixtures
                - Built-in millwork bench seating
                - Yellow brick walls and wainscoting (a style of paneling)
Terrazzo floors
A slate chalkboard from the original building repurposed for the Noonan Outdoor Classroom

Some of the sustainable innovations include a gray water system that captures rainwater from the building’s roof and gutters which cleans and conserves water for use in toilets; daylight harvesting, which uses motion sensors to turn off electrical fixtures when there is adequate natural daylight; and a heat wheel recovery system which makes the air handling unit ultraefficient. Chilled beam technology is also used to condition and regulate the temperature throughout the building. This process uses less electrical energy to meet the same thermal load as other types of air conditioning. The Noonan Outdoor Classroom was also built during this process and provides different surroundings from the traditional learning environment for students and faculty alike.

[i] College of Agriculture Faculty Meeting Minutes, January 15, 1972, College of Life Sciences & Agriculture Faculty Meeting Minutes, 1920-1981, UA 10/2/11, Milne Special Collections & Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.