Emeritus Faculty Award
Whoever thinks retirement lightens the work load hasn’t met Walter Butcher.
While an active professor at WSU, Butcher produced volumes of work. As an emeritus faculty member, Butcher has continued working on topics that occupied him for 34 years as a WSU professor of agricultural and resource economics, and he hasn’t slowed the pace.
Since “retirement,” Butcher has concentrated his research and instructional efforts on irrigation and natural resource management in Central Asia. After visits to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in 1997 and 1998, he began work with the Tashkent Institute of Irrigation and Melioration (TIIM), an engineering institute in the former Soviet Union that was striving to broaden and strengthen its teaching and research on irrigation and water management.
Butcher worked with the WSU Office of International Research and Development to establish a WSU-TIIM partnership with funding provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State.
Butcher and his WSU colleagues conducted workshops and applied research projects on economic and social analysis of irrigated agriculture as well as environmental and water management. Ed Weber, director of the Thomas Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service, brought a strong social science component into the partnership and organized a survey of more than 1,000 Uzbekistani farmers, the results of which are pending.
Butcher continues today helping TIIM to develop sustainable irrigation methods in these countries.
“I’m fascinated with applying economic principles to understanding natural resource management,” said Butcher.  “Economics provides a logical and consistent basis to evaluate the pros and cons of decisions that ultimately bear monetary and economic consequences.”
That fascination led to a 39-year career examining the economics of natural resource management, conservation and policy analysis in relation to agricultural land and water resources and water allocation.
Areas that Butcher remembers best include work on Northwest regional and national water issues, electricity and energy planning and policy, and principles for sustainable agriculture and resource management in developing countries.
When this retiree finds the time, he enjoys fishing with his friend and colleague Norm Whittlesley, with whom he not only worked but also went to school. Butcher also likes spending time with his family and traveling with his wife, Elinor.
“This award means that someone thought the things I’ve been doing have been a good idea,” said Butcher. “Maybe a retiree can make a difference.”