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USU Professor Richard E. Toth Named CELA Fellow

Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014

USU faculty member Richard Toth

Richard Toth, professor in USU's Department of Environment and Society and the USU Ecology Center, has been named a Fellow by the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture.

USU professor Richard Toth with students

Toth, right, and bioregional planning students discuss a project. Toth says bioregional planning recognizes the importance of how the biophysical attributes of a region influence the human dimensions of settlement and culture.

Utah State University professor Richard E. Toth was named a 2014 Fellow by the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture. Director of USU’s Bioregional Planning Graduate Program in the Department of Environment and Society of the Quinney College of Natural Resources, Toth was one of five people honored nationally in a ceremony during CELA’s national conference held March 26-29, 2014, in Baltimore, Md.

“This is a very prestigious honor for Utah State and well-deserved recognition for Richard,” says Chris Luecke, QCNR dean. “Richard and his students have made remarkable strides in working with communities around the Intermountain West in sustainable bioregional planning.”

The recipient of numerous awards from the American Planning Association and the American Society of Landscape Architects, Toth, who joined USU in 1972, downplays these accolades and focuses on the accomplishments of his students.

“Our bioregional planning students have repeatedly received peer-reviewed, professional awards and their research is making major contributions to the state of Utah and beyond,” he says.

During the past decade, projects by USU bioregional planning students have garnered multiple honors from the Utah chapter of the American Planning Association. These projects, focused on varied regions around the state, have included carefully researched alternative futures that provide community planners with detailed models depicting the projected consequences of different decision paths.

Toth, who also serves as a faculty member with the USU Ecology Center, says bioregional planning recognizes the importance of how the biophysical attributes of a region influence the human dimensions of settlement and culture. In a reciprocal manner, settlement and culture are examined to assess their influence on the biophysical attributes of a region.

“Our goal with each project is not to tell planners what they should do, but to provide them with the information they need to make sound decisions about community development,” he says.

A 1963 graduate of Harvard University, Toth’s first academic appointment was in the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. In 1968, he was invited to join the faculty of his alma mater, Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

“After pursuing an opportunity to teach summer school at USU in 1967, my wife and I were convinced our future was in the West,” he says.

Presented with an opportunity in 1972 to join USU as a professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Toth accepted a leave of absence from HGSD. He served as department head of LEAP from 1973-1982 and 1987-1998 and joined the restructured ENVS department in 2002.

USU’s bioregional planning program, Toth says, offers students an educational experience “you can’t duplicate in the classroom.”

“Our students rub shoulders with stakeholders responsible for communities’ futures,” he says. “When our students go into these communities, they’re rigorously questioned and their ideas are challenged. They learn patience and decorum in real-world situations.”

Toth and his students are currently working on a project in southeastern Utah, an area eyed by diverse stakeholders for conservation, recreation and energy development.

“Bioregional planning is a challenging and dynamic field of study,” he says. “You never know what’s going to happen when you begin discussions with stakeholders. As far as the regions studied, the one thing you can count on is change.”

Related links:

Contact: Richard E. Toth, 435-797-0694,

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

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