By TIM HEARDEN

Capital Press

ANDERSON, Calif. - Talk to just about anyone in the forest products industry long enough, and it's a good bet the subject will land on the importance of education.

Timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries helps put on an annual education day for elementary school students in the woods each spring, and it sends teams to fairs and festivals to teach kids about the many uses of wood.

Reminders of the efforts to instruct young people - and recruiting the next generation of forest professionals - could be seen everywhere at the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference here Feb. 7-11.

About 800 students - mostly fourth-graders - toured the conference's heavy equipment exposition Feb. 9. In addition, students from a community college and three universities took part in logging sports competitions, and several local colleges had booths at the conference trade show.

"That's the biggest thing that we're about is educating the public and the world about what we do as an industry," said conference chairman Mark Lathrop, community relations manager at SPI. "We are proud of what we do."

At one of the stations during the education day, John Livingston, a heavy equipment instructor at Shasta College in Redding, Calif., taught the students how an excavator works.

"This is a great experience for these kids," Livingston said. "They learn a lot about equipment and the whole forestry industry."

Teachers said the lessons were well organized and that the kids learned a great deal.

"I learned that wood is in a lot of things - that a lot of things come from trees," said Max Fowler, a fourth-grader at St. Joseph School in Redding.

His classmate, fourth-grader Connor Hobbs, said he learned about planting trees.

"You're not supposed to plant your tree too deep," he said. "It won't grow."

At the logging sports competitions, teams from Shasta College, California State University-Humboldt, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and University of California-Berkeley tested their skills with saws and axes in a covered arena at the Shasta District Fair grounds.

Events included the underhand chop, in which competitors stand on logs and cut them in two with an ax; hand saw divisions with single competitors or teams of two; and an ax throw. Wesley Palmer of Los Molinos, Calif., who was Shasta College's coach and captain, said the team goes to about three meets a year.

He said the exhibitions show onlookers some of the history of logging.

"I think it definitely shows some of the ways they used to do things," he said. "A lot of the activities ... are stuff they used to do in the logging camps back in the old days."

In the trade show, a row of college recruiters included Jim Ostrowski, a forester and instructor at College of the Siskiyous in Weed, Calif.

"There's a lot of people who don't know much about the forest products industry, but we all use the products," he said of the conference's activities. "It's great to be able to educate people about where forest products come from and that it's a renewable resource."

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