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Ensuring an Environmental Balance

Joshua Carpenter

Environmental Specialist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

2006 BS in Forestry


Environmental specialist and Northern Arizona University alumnus Joshua Carpenter is on a mission to protect and educate people about the aquatic environment. Carpenter works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Albuquerque District Regulatory Division in Pueblo, Colorado, conducting environmental review for proposed projects, assessing potential impacts and making sure laws are upheld. His work covers various types of activities in the Southern Colorado region, from highway projects to subdivisions and other public and private developments, making sure the Clean Water Act and other federal laws and regulations, such as 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, he says, 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."

And resolving 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."

Carpenter's dedication to protecting valuable aquatic resources started while in school as a part of the Student Career Employment Program (SCEP). "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 regarded for its unique approach to undergraduate education, which encourages internships and field experience. It is that approach, Carpenter says, that helped him to 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."

The Mississippi native started as an undergraduate at Mississippi State University and came to Flagstaff through the National Student Exchange (NSE) program. He fell in love with the approach to education he found at NAU. "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 is owned and managed by the university. He also developed an appreciation for desert ecology and the variety of beautiful landscapes that Arizona has to offer.

"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."