UW News

April 21, 2016

UW’s Jerry Franklin honored for lifetime of forest research, policy

UW News

Forest ecologist Jerry Franklin has made a career of straddling two sometimes very different worldviews — that of the ecologist and the forester.

Jerry Franklin displaying his Pinchot Medallion award.

Jerry Franklin displays his Pinchot Medallion award.University of Washington

The two professions historically didn’t see eye to eye, but Franklin, in his current role as a UW professor of environmental and forest sciences and previously as a forester with the U.S. Forest Service, has in his 60-year career found a way to integrate ecological and economic values into forestry. He is now a world-renowned leader in sustainable forest management.

The Washington, D.C.-based Pinchot Institute for Conservation recently awarded Franklin its Pinchot Medallion, which honors “an individual who has made extraordinary and valuable contributions to science or practice in environmental conservation and sustainable natural resources management.” The award is named for Gifford Pinchot, the first leader of the U.S. Forest Service and an advocate for conservation.

With the award, Franklin was invited to give a distinguished lecture to members of the Cosmos Club, a private club in D.C. whose members include political and scientific leaders. Among the many awards he has collected, this one is particularly significant, he said.

“I’ve always felt like I was too much of an ecologist for the foresters, and too much of a forester for the ecologists. This really indicated to me that, yes, I’ve had a big impact in forestry,” Franklin said.

“It recognizes me both for the science and the role I’ve had in seeing that science incorporated into policy. Our whole perspective on forests has changed in 60 years, essentially the span on my career.”

Franklin started his career with the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station in western Oregon, then became a UW professor in 1986 after 30 years as a forester. He was one of the first scientists to study natural forest ecosystems, particularly old-growth forests, and is often referred to as the “father of new forestry.”

“From my perspective, Jerry Franklin is one of the most influential forest ecologists of our time,” said Thomas DeLuca, professor and director of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

“Jerry has been instrumental in the evolution of forestry in the Pacific Northwest and continues to push the envelope on creating an ecological approach to forestry that appropriately integrates people into the larger forest ecosystem.”

Franklin worked for former President Bill Clinton on the controversial Northwest Forest Plan, the series of federal policies and guidelines that essentially reversed clear-cutting of old growth and refocused the Forest Service’s mission on nurturing forest ecosystems and their biological diversity. He also advised the U.S. House of Representatives and continues to work with the Obama administration on forest policy issues.

These tasks weren’t easy, and Franklin said he has angered both sides — environmentalists and timber companies — by advocating the best science for forest management.

“I’ve riled up everybody,” Franklin said with a laugh. “I’ve always viewed my clients as the trees and forests. I don’t pick up anybody’s agenda for them.”

Franklin has also served on a number of boards and governing panels, including The Wilderness Society, the Ecological Society of America and the Nature Conservancy. He has published more than 450 scientific articles and books.

“Jerry helped reveal the richness and complexity of forest biomes, adding immeasurably to our understanding of the world around us, and providing a new benchmark upon which future scientists will build,” said Will Price, acting president of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation.

“Through Jerry’s dedication to communicating scientific results and informing decision-makers, ecologically sound forest management techniques that were characterized as ‘new forestry’ a generation ago have now become conventional wisdom in the management of forests in the Pacific Northwest, across the country, and around the world. Jerry’s remarkable courage and commitment were critical in this achievement.”

Franklin’s previous honors include an Award for the Environment from the Heinz Foundation and a LaRoe Award in 2004 from the Society for Conservation Biology.


For more information, contact Franklin at jff@uw.edu or 206-543-2138.