Students Learn about Forestry

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Kids College Camp at the Graham County Center

The Junior Forestry Camp presented by the Partners of Joyce Kilmer/ Slickrock Wilderness and the U.S. Forest Service in conjunction with Tri-County Community College this summer was a complete success.

Students had the opportunity to learn from professionals all about forestry, forest eco-systems, trail management and fire management.

The camp consisted of four mornings focused on different topics each day.

One day was spent inside the classroom, where chemistry professor Dr. James Baker, showed students how to extract cholorophyll from the leaves of a plant and how looking at the world with black light changes everything. Botanist Jim Kriner taught about the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid and how the invasion of one, tiny insect can have huge effects on the forest ecosystem.

Joe Bonnette and Frank Findley and the U.S. Forest Service staff showed students traditional ways to identify and measure trees using equipment such as a compass, diameter tapes, clinometers, tape measures, Biltmore sticks and increment borers. They were taught about trail maintenance by Dick Evans and Dave Hagan who demonstrated how to repair a water bar, improve trail tread and prevent erosion along a trail.

Veteran “hot shot” firefighter Marshall McClung and Forest Ranger Jeremy Waite and Dave Dodson showed the students all about fighting fire during the last day of the camp. Waite carefully showed the students the difference between the duff layer and the dirt layer on the forest floor and why that knowledge is critical when you are trying to control a fire.

Waite asked the children “When does fire burn the best? Early in the morning it is damp. By mid-afternoon it is usually the driest and that is the best burning time.”

“The higher the humidity the lower the chance of fire. When the humidity is 15-30 percent fuels on the ground are available to burn. If there is no wind the heat goes straight up. When there is wind it blows sparks of fire onto other fuels.” To illustrate this principal Waite held up a board with unlit matches attached. He showed the students how altering the slope of the board would change the direction and speed of the fire.

Kahlan Hilliard, one of the students at the camp, said “My favorite part of the week was the part about search and rescue.

“It was really fun. Marshall McClung showed us how to look for scratches on the rocks made from boots.”

Austin Jenkins, 16, is considering becoming a ranger. He thought the day on fire-fighting techniques was the best.

Student Ava Spencer enjoyed the entire week, but when asked what she had learned she replied, “When you change one thing in a forest eco-system, everything changes, it affects everything else.”

Article and photo courtesy of The Graham Star