By Lindsay Key

When Online Master of Natural Resources student Adrian Hunter retired from the U.S. Marine Corps with more than twenty years of service, it wasn’t hard for him to figure out what he wanted to do next. “Being a father and a naturalist and a lover of public land, I felt I needed to protect the natural beauty I love and make sure my kids can enjoy it in the future,” he said.

In 2018, he began a career with the U.S. Forest Service, working as a forestry technician, a lead snow ranger, and a program manager for off-highway vehicles, before being appointed to his current role as Motorized Recreation Program Manager of Carson Ranger District, which encompasses more than 400,000 acres in Nevada and eastern California.

In this role, he oversees recreation in the district’s wilderness areas, including hiking trails and the use of off-highway vehicles like snowmobiles, dirt bikes, and ATVs. Between the summer and winter months, he manages seven seasonal employees.

Leading sustainability efforts 
In addition to making sure operations run smoothly, Adrian is passionate about making sure they run “greenly.” With this in mind, he enrolled in Virginia Tech’s Online Master of Natural Resources (OMNR) program to learn about specific measures he could take to help his district function more sustainably. The program’s course work, he said, is flexible in that it allows working professionals to complete projects related and applicable to on-the-job challenges.

Recently, he addressed the State Commission of Nevada Off-Highway Vehicles and offered assistance to all the state's associations, agencies, and clubs that participate in or oversee motorized recreation on how to reduce or offset their emissions by investing in electric vehicles. He has also led an initiative to replace damaged forest service signs with new signs made of recyclable material. “Unfortunately, the recycled material signs are very expensive,” admitted Adrian. “Nevertheless, I write grants to procure funding to cover the costs.”

Promoting climate change education 
Along with envisioning and implementing new sustainable policies, Adrian is committed to educating people around him about sustainability and climate change. In his role, he has ample opportunities to educate colleagues, and also people enjoying recreation in his district, about sustainable practices. Through the OMNR coursework, he said he has learned ways to engage different types of audiences in environmental awareness.

“Regardless of whether I'm wearing my U.S. Forest Service hat or my Hokie hat, I'm always pushing, encouraging, and educating people toward the idea of, ‘Hey, we all have to take responsibility for climate change, and if you’re willing to do so, I’ll help you.’”

In Spring 2021, Adrian took the course Climate Change Science with Dr. Adam Kalkstein. The course guides students through the science behind climate change as well as its potential implications, from natural disasters to human health. Adrian said the knowledge he gained from the course—along with many other courses in the program—helped him gain the confidence he needed to start discussions about climate change and its impacts. He is a huge proponent of facilitating growth and change, regardless of whether it’s included in a job title or not.

"It's so rewarding to see students out in the field, taking lessons learned in class and applying them to make real differences in the world,” said Kalkstein. “More than anything else, that's what the OMNR program is all about."

Adrian Hunter VT OMNR Student, US Forest Service

Adrian Hunter retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2017 but continues to serve the country by working in natural resource management with the U.S. Forest Service. While his work is in recreation, his passion is in conservation. Adrian is striving toward a position in wildlife or climate change mitigation and education. In his off-time, he spends time hiking and camping with his family, and volunteers with the Nevada Department of Wildlife as a wildlife educator and hunter safety instructor. Adrian plans to graduate in the spring of 2023.