PRIEST RIVER — For 37 years, the Idaho State Forestry Contest has provided area youth with a chance to learn about using, protecting and sustaining natural resources.
“The forestry contest is a great way for students to learn all aspects of the local ecosystem as well as many of the skills needed to manage these ecosystems,” said Jared Hughes, Priest River Lamanna High School science teacher. “The timber and recreation industries are our top two local employers. We are trying to best prepare the students for potential future careers, as well as hopefully a better understanding and appreciation for the local ecosystems.”
Last week’s forestry contest marked the 10th year Hughes has taken a group of PRLHS students to the event, though the school has participated for 16 years. The group of 15 students — three teams and three individuals — did “outstanding,” he said. The teams finished in fourth, seventh and ninth places out of 24 teams.
“The contest is mostly about the learning, but it also is a contest so it was nice to finish high in the standings compared to other local schools,” Hughes said.
When the event started in 1982 as simply the Forestry Contest, there were about 35 youngsters who participated. Now in its 37th year, more than 700 students, from Bonners Ferry to Plummer, were registered for Thursday’s event, held at the Delay Farm in Careywood.
“This is the biggest year that we have ever had out here,” said Karen Sjoquist, forest legacy coordinator with the Idaho Department of Lands and public information officer for this year’s contest.
There were also more than 300 volunteers from numerous agencies, forest industries, local businesses, organizations, schools, and private individuals who donated their time to help run the contest.
The contest has three divisions for students in grades one through 12. The non-competitive novice course for elementary students was by far the largest group with 415 youngsters registered — about 100 more than last year. The course provides hands-on activities and a walk through the woods guided by a professional forester. The kids learn about some of the skills used in the competitive divisions, such as timber cruising, log scaling, map reading and more. Because of the growing popularity of the novice division, however, the course itself has grown to 10 stations this year, Sjoquist said. One of the new additions this year was an unmanned aerial vehicle station.
The rookie course is an introductory competition for sixth graders with five test stations, including tree identification, compass and pacing, map reading, timber cruising and log scaling, as well as an introductory silviculture station
The junior/senior division is for students in grades seven through 12, challenging the contestants in 10 areas of forestry and resource management expertise.
PRLHS senior Lathe Moran said this was his first year participating in the contest. He took Hughes’ class for two semesters, and while the contest was a bit different from what he learned at home, he said he enjoyed it.
“I am feeling pretty confident,” Moran said as he made his way between stations in the junior/senior division.
To prepare for the contest, students in the botany/forestry class at PRLHS are instructed in all 10 content areas tested at the forestry contest, Hughes said. They also spend time on plant anatomy and physiology, forest ecology, and the history of forestry on the local, state and national level. There are approximately 17 acres next to the high school owned by the West Bonner County School District that Hughes said they are allowed to use as an outdoor classroom.
“We can study all components of the contest in a practical way, not just in theory,” Hughes said, adding that he would like to thank the Priest River Community Forest Connection and WBCSD for their support each year.
The contest is sponsored by the Idaho Department of Lands, the Bonner Soil and Water Conservation District, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. It is made possible through the support of many individuals and public and private organizations as well.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.