Forty years in forestry earns NAU Regents’ professor prestigious award

More than 100 years ago forests of the Southwest were open and park-like, dominated by groups of large, towering ponderosa pines and filled with a diversity of grasses and wildflowers. Today, they are dense and dark, overcrowded with dog-hair thickets of small-diameter trees. They are plagued by wildfires and a lack of plant and animal diversity.

When Dr. Wally Covington first arrived in Flagstaff in 1975, he set out to heal sick forests. He had just emerged from the doctoral forestry program at Yale University and joined Northern Arizona University as an assistant professor of forestry. Since then, his he has earned numerous accolades and played an important role in reshaping forest management approaches and policy.

Covington, named a Regents’ Professor of Forestry in 1995, recently received the Biswell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Fire Ecology, honoring his pioneering research in dry, frequent-fire forests of the American West. Dr. Covington received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Forest Service for the project, “Southwest Ecological Restoration.” Dr. Covington also testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to review past wildfire seasons and to improve future federal wildland fire management strategies.