Farmer Jack Gray and retired forester Dick Powell recently wrote an op-ed in the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard about the importance of outdoor education.
Getting outdoors — out of the classroom and immersed in how our natural world works — inspires kids and opens possibilities they never dreamed of before.
This is why Tillamook County, for example, whose economic base relies heavily on natural resources, is such a strong believer in outdoor education. The people of Tillamook understand that the link between outdoor education and economic impact is not at all a “bit of a stretch,” as Sen, Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, put it, because the next generation’s success as adults depends on having an appreciation and knowledge of natural resources.
Our society is increasingly urbanized and increasingly distanced from the natural world. If our children believe their cereal and milk come from Fred Meyer or that 2-by-4s come from Home Depot, when they grow up they are more likely to make uninformed decisions regarding their use and care of the natural world.
The younger generation of foresters is promising, however. In Aberdeen, Wash., 24-year-old Erik Larson isn’t a forester, per se, but he is making a splash as the mayor of a historic timber town. In Montana this week, students are touring sawmills and forests and taking classes as part of the 27th Annual Flathead Family Forestry Expo.
“I think it’s absolutely imperative”, said Les Thomas with (the) Montana (Department of Natural Resources and Conservation). “You get (the students) when they’re younger and they’re still really open to new ideas and they’re excited about being outside and they’re excited about being outside of class too.and they’ll listen and they absorb so much at those ages.”
The New York Times recently did a Q & A with Dennis Webb, a 22-year-old logger in Northern California. Webb is at a point in his career where he’s quickly learning about the intricacies of forestry.
What have you learned from working in the woods?
If you pay attention, you can learn something new every day. It’s really remarkable. Certain plants will thrive in some environments and not others. For example, as trees grow, they create more shade, so shade-tolerant plants will grow and others won’t. Sometimes plants compete with each other, too, for water, light and soil nutrients.
What’s a recent project you worked on?
One we called the helicopter logging project. We wanted to manage a remote area that has no roads into it. We had to hike in to mark the trees to cut, and then the loggers hiked in to cut them. The only way we could remove the logs was to have a helicopter do it.