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Learning about forestry firsthand

by Tina Canon

STAFF WRITER

Have you ever seen geese in flight or heard pine cones crunching under your feet as you walk through the woods?

That's what 225 junior and high school Future Farmers of America members and science students from Harrison, Doddridge, Upshur and Lewis counties experienced Wednesday at the first Doddridge County Forestry Field Day.

"Forestry is more than lumber. It's wildlife, recreation and resources," said Jeff Mills.

Mills is a service forester for the West Virginia Division of Forestry and owner of the farm the students explored.

The students traveled to four stations throughout the day. They were: hardwood forest management, band saw operation/lumber grading, wildlife management and white pine plantation management.

"This makes it a lot easier to learn," said Doddridge County High School sophomore Kim Burnside. "It's much more interesting than learning from the classroom or a book."

At the stations, the students listened to instructors speak of how forests regenerate themselves, the operation of sawmills and how lumber is graded.

"Hopefully the students will learn new job skills and careers through this experience," said Dan Daquilante, Doddridge County high school science teacher.

During one demonstration, the students explored animal pelts and bones. They were allowed to touch them.

"Teaching the students the practice of maintaining and increasing the population, plus the needs of certain species, is a big part of habitat management," said Casey Shrader, a biologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Discussions also turned to the constant battle with disease and wildlife in the forest.

Jim Foster is chairman of the board for the West Fork Soil Conservation District. Foster spoke of the importance of teaching conservation. "We offer speech and poster contests plus scholarships to promote conservation," Foster said.

The event was a success, according to Jeff Griffith, district conservationist with the USDA. "This was a great educational opportunity, and as long as we have a good response from the schools to participate, we will continue with our efforts," Griffith said.

Field day instructors were: Barb McWhorter, Dave McGill, Casey Shrader, Chris Ryan, Jeff Mills, Chuck Copeland and Steve McAnarny.

The sponsors were: West Virginia Tree Farm Committee, West Fork Soil Conservation District along with the WV Forestry Association, West Virginia Division of Forestry and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Staff writer Tina Canon can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at tcanon@exponent-telegram.com.

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