CORVALLIS - Oregon State University and a non-profit organization called Wallowa Resources will team up this fall to offer a series of three courses to northeastern Oregon residents through a field studies program that analyzes natural resource issues from the standpoint of rural communities.

The program will be based entirely in Wallowa County.

This cooperative initiative is a pilot program that OSU officials say may be duplicated in other parts of rural Oregon. Persons who enroll in the three-course program will get hands-on experience in natural resource management in Wallowa County's diverse environment.

"These undergraduate courses are aimed at students and professionals in natural resources, environmental science, and economics," said Jack Walstad, who heads the Department of Forest Resources at OSU. "But they also will be of interest to educators and local residents interested in resource conservation and management."

The program begins in late September, but registration is open now for the 16 slots. Cost for the month-long program - that includes three courses and 10 total credit hours - is $3,500. A portion of the funds will support Wallowa Resources' community education efforts. For information on registration, see the OSU Extended Campus website at http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu and type in Wallowa in the search engine. Or call ECampus at 1-800-235-6559.

The courses will be taught by Wallowa Resources staff, foresters, ranchers, scientists and resource professionals who live and work in Wallowa County. Heading the program will be Nils Christoffersen, the non-profit organization's assistant director, who has a master's degree in forestry from Oxford University and many years of experience in natural resource management.

Program participants will spend about three weeks at The Nature Conservancy's Zumwalt Preserve, and a week with a Wallow County family. A number of field trips also are planned.

The three courses are: "Understanding Place," which explores how geologic and ecologic history and human influences define a landscape; "Human Influence on Disturbance Ecosystems," which explores the consequences of fire, flooding, insect damage, grazing and timber harvest; and "Community-Based Conservation and Development," an analysis of the local, regional and international collaborative efforts toward sustainability, where students will meet ranchers, landowners and business owners who work at stream restoration, sustainable logging and grazing.