GLIDE, Ore. — In an outdoor classroom, the subjects were forestry management, the impact of wildfires, recovery plans following a fire and reforestation.
Forty students from Glide and South Umpqua high schools listened to the presentations from public and private forestry officials on a recent morning as they stood in a blackened landscape. The site was northeast of Glide on Bureau of Land Management land that had been severely burned during the Archie Creek Fire that torched 131,542 acres last September.
After the presentations, the students went to work planting Douglas fir and sugar pine seedlings. Cody Trent and Paul Kercher, Glide High freshmen, estimated they planted 36 seedlings as they climbed a mountainside.
“It’s been a fun day,” Trent said. “I’m glad I was able to come out here and help. When I go to sleep tonight, I’ll know I did something special today.”
Marlee Rogers and Angelica Navalta, South Umpqua freshmen, worked in a group of four.
“Seeing this is sad,” Rogers said of the blackened terrain.
“Being out here shows how we can help,” Navalta said. “It feels great to help our environment. It makes me proud to be part of the recovery.”
Communities for Healthy Forests, a nonprofit organization, has been coordinating seedling planting field trips for students for about 15 years. The Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, Lone Rock Timber and the Society of American Foresters also helped with Friday’s event.
The mission of CHF, a Roseburg, Ore.-based group, is to inform the public and policy makers with facts supporting both pre- and post-forest management in regards to wildfire.
“We hope to broaden the understanding of young people in the causes and the opportunities to mediate through pre-fire management and post-fire management in regards to the impact of wildfire,” said Doug Robertson, CHF’s executive director. “Today, the emphasis was on post-fire recovery. What they did today was on a small scale, but to talk to them about reforestation in a highly severe burn area is important.”
Robertson explained to the students that it would be generations before any meaningful forest resource returned to the land because there is no natural seed source for natural regeneration.
“You have to give nature a hand to get this forest growing again, so you, your kids, your grandkids have the opportunity to enjoy what we enjoyed before it burned down,” he said to the students.
John Campbell, the ag instructor and FFA adviser at South Umpqua, said his students are in an Introduction to Ag class and presently studying the Forest Fire unit.
“I hope the kids learn we have some control over wildfire with the proper forest management,” Campbell said. “We’re learning about the balance between prescribed burns and wildfires.
“Being out here is the ideal ag environment,” he added. “The students are fully engaged, using shovels, holding and planting seedlings. It’s so different than being in the classroom.”
Tim Freeman, a Douglas County commissioner, said it was a great learning experience for the students to listen to the forestry officials talk about forest management and wildfire. He added it’s important for the kids to know that the private land burned in the Archie Creek Fire will be “mostly reforested and become a green forest again” under the guidance of the Oregon Forest Practices Act while “most of the Forest Service and BLM lands will not be replanted or reforested” because of more restrictive federal regulations.
“I think it’s important for the students to hear that when they come up this road in 20 years, the private land will have at least 30-foot tall trees while on the public land will be tall brush,” Freeman said.
Robertson said he was pleased with the planting effort and the response from the students.
“Even though what they did was on a small scale, getting this next generation of trees growing is so important because the recovery of the forest, the wildlife, the watershed will be expedited because of their planting efforts today,” he said.