CAREYWOOD — Eight Priest River Lamanna High School students joined the hundreds of Idaho students who competed in this year's Idaho State Forestry Contest last Thursday.
Jared Hughes, PRLHS science teacher, said skills the students learn for the contest can do several things for the students.
"It can be a foot in the door for jobs dealing with natural resources," Hughes said. "We have several students took our forestry class who are now with Idaho Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Lands, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Corp of Engineers, local mills and logging companies. The skills can also be useful if a student becomes a landowner in the future to develop sound management plans for their property. The skills also can be used for better understanding/enjoyment of the beautiful area we live in."
Hughes said PRLHS has participated in the contest for the past 15 years, as it is his ninth year, and his predecessor took the students for five or six years prior to that.
To prepare for the contest, Hughes said he teaches mostly "foundation learning" in the fall, including plant anatomy, plant physiology, plant classification, silviculture, plant health, and more. The second semester the students use the skills they learned in the fall to prepare for the forestry contest and developing a forest stewardship plan.
At the contest, students enter one of four divisions — novice, rookie, junior or senior. Though it varied by division, each of the courses consisted of several stations, such as tree identification, map reading, compass and pacing, tree scaling, timber cruising and more. Participants were divided into groups and would travel to each station, answering questions for which they would be scored on. PRLHS was in the senior division.
Milo Edwards, a PRLHS junior, had only completed one station — tree identification — as of the time she spoke with the Daily Bee, but she said that would probably be the easiest for her. The hardest part, she said, would likely be the soils and water quality.
Edwards said she enjoys the forestry class at PRLHS "a lot" and, likewise, was enjoying taking part in the contest. She was surprised, she said, to see how many people of all different ages participate.
"And there is a lot more walking than I anticipated," Edwards said.
When the Idaho State Forestry Contest started in 1982, there were about 35 kids who participated in the event. It has grown substantially, however, as nearly 600 area youth competed in the contest last week.
"This is the biggest one ever," said contest coordinator Karen Robinson. "It just seems like it grows every year."
This year, Robinson said organizers even had to add a third course in the novice division as more than half of the participants, about 300 of them, were in the beginning category. The rookie division had two courses with more than 170 kids, and the junior/senior division had 116 competitors. School students, 4-H clubs, Future Farmers of America, and other youth from across the state are welcome to compete in the contest, though this year Robinson said Post Falls was the most southern participant.
Hughes said while PRLHS did not receive a top three award this year, Priest River did have a team in the top five for the seventh time in nine years.
"I am really proud of the program and how the kids did this year," he said.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.