Balancing Environment and Economics

Joshua Carpenter is on a mission to protect and educate people about aquatic resources. Carpenter, who graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2006 with a BS in Forestry, works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Albuquerque District Regulatory Division in Pueblo, Colorado, where he conducts environmental reviews for proposed projects and assesses potential environmental impacts. His work covers various types of activities in southern Colorado, from highways to subdivisions and other public and private developments. Through his efforts, he helps ensure that federal laws and regulations, such as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act, are upheld.

"I have a tough job of balancing the economic needs of applicants with the environmental needs of the public, such as habitat, water quality, and flood storage," Carpenter says."The work is rewarding, but it can be demanding because people don't like to be told what they can and can't do on their own property. But when you work with someone to accomplish their goals while avoiding and minimizing unnecessary impacts, particularly impacts to their neighbors upstream or downstream which they had not considered, they usually gain a little more appreciation for the job we do. It's not always easy to get them to come around, though."

Settling disputes over unauthorized activities is a whole other challenge, Carpenter says. "Considering the emotions that are involved with violations, I would say this is the tougher part of my job. But conflict resolution is one of my strengths, so I kind of enjoy it."

New perspectives

Carpenter's dedication to protecting the aquatic environment started while he was an undergraduate student in the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP). Upon graduation, Carpenter was hired on full time.  "What I enjoy about it is being able to work with people to help them achieve their goals and project purposes without unnecessary impacts to aquatic resources," says Carpenter. "It is an opportunity for education as much as it is about anything else. To me it is almost more important to educate people than to regulate their activities, which is ultimately what I am helping to do."

The university’s School of Forestry is nationally recognized for its unique approach to undergraduate education, which encourages internships and field experience. Carpenter says that approach helped him cultivate a sense of open mindedness in the field.

"I work with folks indirectly on a national level from all over the country, and I probably would not have been offered the job in Pueblo if I had not developed the perspectives that I gained at NAU," says Carpenter. "NAU broadened my perspective to be able to think outside the box. That outlook has prepared me to develop a more rewarding career."

Unique landscapes

The Mississippi native was an undergraduate at Mississippi State University when he came to Flagstaff through the National Student Exchange (NSE) program. Carpenter fell in love with Northern Arizona University’s approach to education. "I felt like I found a part of me that was waiting to come out," Carpenter says. "The faculty work really intimately with their students. They really care. If you have an interest in forestry, they are going to help you develop into someone that you weren't when you got here. You will learn a lot from these folks and it will help your future."

As part of the forestry program, Carpenter spent time in the Centennial Forest, which the university owns and manages. He also developed an appreciation for desert ecology and the variety of Arizona’s beautiful landscapes.

"The wilderness areas in the Southwest are really phenomenal, because you really can just go get lost and not run into anyone. There is not a whole lot of public land like that back in the East," Carpenter says. "If you are into environmental sustainability and an ecological approach to forestry and land management, this is certainly the place for you."