The School of Natural Resources & Extension educates students for a wide range of career opportunities in agribusiness, government, public service agencies, retail and service industries, human health institutions, financial institutions, youth development agencies, conservation and environmental organizations, farming and ranching, research, extension, communication, and education.

As the primary land-grant component of the university, SNRE engages in cooperative efforts with federal, state, and borough governments and agencies. One of the two founding institutions of the University of Alaska, the school continues the land-grant mission.

The federal Hatch Act of 1887 authorized establishment of agricultural experiment stations in the United States and its territories to provide science-based research information to farmers. There are agricultural experiment stations in each of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam. All but one are part of the land-grant college system. The Morrill Act established the land-grant colleges in 1862. While the experiment stations perform agricultural research, the land-grant colleges provide science-based education in agriculture and forestry.

The Alaska Agricultural & Forestry Experiment Station was not originally part of the Alaska land-grant college system. In 1898, the station was established in Sitka, also the site of Alaska’s first experiment farm. Subsequent branches were opened at Kodiak, Kenai, Rampart, Copper Center, Fairbanks, and Matanuska. The latter two remain as the Fairbanks Experiment Farm and the Matanuska Experiment Farm. The USDA established the Fairbanks experiment station in 1906 on a site that in 1915 provided land for a college. The land transfer and money to establish the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines was approved by the U.S. Congress in 1915. Two years later the Alaska Territorial Legislature added funding, and in 1922, when the first building was constructed, the college opened its doors to students. The first student graduated in 1923. In 1931, the experiment station was transferred from federal ownership to the college, and in 1935 the college was renamed the University of Alaska. When campuses were opened at other locations, the Fairbanks campus became the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Early experiment station researchers developed adapted cultivars of grains, grasses, potatoes, and berries, and introduced many vegetable cultivars appropriate to Alaska. Animal and poultry management was also important. This work continues, as does research in soils, forest ecology and management, and rural and economic development. As the state faces new challenges in agriculture and resource management, the Agricultural & Forestry Experiment Station continues to bring state-of-the-art research information to the people of Alaska.

The Alaska Extension Service (the Cooperative Extension Service, now combined with SNRE) was established on July 1, 1930, as part of the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, which became the University of Alaska in 1935. Dr. C.E. Bunnell, president of the college, was the first director of Extension. In the first six months, early Extension pioneers formed 4-H and home demonstrations clubs from Fairbanks to the Mat-Su Valley to Southeast Alaska, including a stop in Anchorage “A town population of 2,100 indicated a likely place for extension work…” Cooperative Extension, whose mission is to provide fact-based university research information to individuals, small businesses, and communities, evolved into providing programming in Agriculture/Horticulture; Natural Resources/Community Development; Health, Home and Family Development; and 4-H Youth Development. As Alaska communities face new challenges, Cooperative Extension is focusing on issues-based programming, including Energy, Climate Change, Health, Economic Development, Food Security, and youth development. Cooperative Extension is working with AFES to identify
areas of collaboration that integrate research and outreach programming.