Jacob Putney, an Oregon State University Extension Service forester, was named 2021 Forester of the Year by the Oregon Society of American Foresters.
The recognition goes to an OSAF member who uses their professional skills for the advancement of forestry in Oregon and through public service.
“Jacob has been in his position of OSU Extension Forester for less than three years, but you’d never guess that from the long list of accomplishments he’s already generated,” said Holly Ober, program leader for Forestry and Natural Resources Extension. “He’s clearly an emerging leader in forestry.”
Putney, an assistant professor of practice and Extension forester in Baker and Grant counties, serves as chair for the Blue Mountain chapter of OSAF and is the chair-elect for the statewide OSAF for 2023. Putney is an associate member of Oregon Small Woodlands Association and was instrumental in reviving and restructuring the Baker OSWA chapter into the new Northeast Oregon OSWA chapter that he currently serves as secretary.
Not one to sit still, Putney participates in several collaboratives, including the Blue Mountain Forest Partners, Northern Blues Forest Collaborative and My Blue Mountains Woodland partnership. Putney is also a volunteer firefighter for the Baker Rural Fire Protection District.
As a kid growing up outside of Oregon City, Putney spent a lot of time in the woods and has fond memories of fishing with his grandparents and brother. When it came time to decide on college, he wanted to attend OSU, but didn’t know what to choose as a major. Putney decided to explore careers while duel-enrolled at Linn-Benton Community College and Oregon State and signed up for mechanical engineering. But after a year of engineering classes – and chemistry – he reconsidered his path. He talked to his father, who studied forestry at OSU.
“I did some summer work in a manufacturing shop and it was abundantly evident that I didn’t want to do that work for the rest of my life,” Putney said. “I needed a change so I met with an advisor and we talked about what kind of jobs foresters have. Halfway through the second year, I switched. I really enjoyed learning about trees. I knew I made the right decision.”
At OSU, Putney went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in forestry and a master’s in forest biometrics, which he describes as applied statistics, quantifying characteristics of trees and using statistical methods to describe their relationships.
“I consider myself a generalist,” Putney said. “I serve Baker and Grant communities and I try to provide science-based resources and information that comes from the university to these folks. I try to convey their concerns and needs that I hear to the university, which helps guide research. The day-to-day work varies a lot, but in the end, it’s about serving small woodland owners, agencies, organizations and the public.”
Putney credits colleague Steve Fitzgerald, OSU Extension silviculture specialist and director of the College of Forestry Research Forests, and Doug Maguire, emeritus professor, for his love of Extension and knowledge of forestry.
“They helped me be a better forester and helped me to my goals,” said Putney, who joined OSAF as an undergraduate and soon took on leadership roles. “I saw how Steve interacted with the public and how he worked toward meeting the challenges of forestry in the field. I’m extremely grateful to them.”
Putney, who said he was surprised and honored to be named Forester of the Year, spends his spare time outdoors hiking, backpacking, hunting and fishing.