UM Alumnus Wins Young Forester Leadership Award

August 15, 2018

Jason Parke, the sole forester for Montana Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (Courtesy of Thom Bridge/Montana FWP)MISSOULA – The Society of American Foresters recently named Jason Parke, an alumnus of the University of Montana W. A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, the recipient of the 2018 Young Forester Leadership Award.

The accolade is given to SAF members under the age 40 who demonstrate outstanding leadership in forestry, recognizing both the development of individual projects and programs and sustained leadership roles in the society and the profession.

Parke is the first and only forester for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“I work for the Habitat Bureau of the Wildlife Division, so my primary responsibility is to manage the forest for habitat objectives on wildlife management areas around the state,” Parke said.

He also assists with projects for the fisheries and parks divisions and has his hands in all varieties of ventures relating to forest management. Parke has held the role since 2015, and he said his favorite part of his job is the opportunity to build the FWP program from the ground up.

Parke graduated from UM in 2006, earning a B.S. in forestry with a concentration in forest resource management.  

“I grew up in Montana hunting, fishing and spending time outdoors,” he said. “As a kid, I didn’t really know that there was a potential career out there, but my dad’s friend worked for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. I talked to him a little bit about working in the field and then looked into those options at UM. I already had it in my head to go to UM.”

He started out as a parks, tourism and recreation management major, but heard about forestry during orientation. He signed up for the forestry first-year interest group and switched majors after his first semester. As a student, he was involved with the Forestry Student Association, the SAF student chapter, the Montana Druids honors organization and the Woodsman Team.

He also served as chief push of the 89th annual Foresters’ Ball. He says his favorite memories from college center around the teamwork and camaraderie of organizing the event and the leadership skills he learned in the process.

Parke joined SAF as a student in 2002. He has chaired the Student Chapter and the Flathead Chapter, served as state chair of the Montana SAF in 2015 and is currently co-chair of the Eastside Chapter.

The Young Forester Leadership Award will be presented at the 2018 SAF national convention Oct. 3-7 in Portland, Oregon. Parke says the biggest honor of the award is the support from the Montana SAF community who nominated him, including a letter of support from UM Provost Emeritus Perry Brown. 

Parke’s advice to current FCFC students is to get involved in clubs that match their interests – from the American Fisheries Society to the Wildlife Society.

“The leadership skills I was able to get out of being involved in clubs was huge,” Parke said. “Offer to help when they’re looking for officers or just a project that they’re taking on. To be involved in that is a huge way to get that leadership experience early on. It helped me land my seasonal jobs and my first permanent job. You just make a lot of connections.” 

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Contact: Kasey Rahn, FCFC communications specialist, 406-243-6693, kasey.rahn@mso.umt.edu.