EUGENE, Ore. – Competitions, industry accreditation seminars and displays of the latest in timber management equipment seemed to be the most obvious components of the 77th Annual Oregon Logging Conference held February 19 – 21, at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene. Less visible were the more than 800 third, fourth and fifth grade students who spent the better part of a day learning about the timber industry.
Women in Timber members, in cooperation with Oregon Forest Resources Institute, Project Learning Tree and Society of Oregon Foresters and other industry groups, have sponsored the student education program since 1991. To a person, the industry considers educating the young people critical to the future of Oregon’s forests.
Mary Loftin, a newly retired classroom teacher who volunteers as a Lane County facilitator for Talk About Trees, talked about the role she played in Friday’s program.
“About 100 children arrive at a time and go directly into a classroom setting for a 30-minute overview of the forest industry,” Loftin said. “We want them to understand the importance of forest stewardship and what part it plays in meeting their own social, environmental and economic needs. We talk about the importance of science and teamwork, wildlife and clean water and show them a short video before they go into a couple of small group sessions. After the classroom experience and guided tour of the grounds so they can watch some of the demonstrations and see the big equipment close up, they re-board their school bus and return to their home towns.”
K.C. VanNatta, a logger and tree farmer from Columbia County who has been attending the Conference since the early 1970s, believes that the future of the industry relies on educating the young people.
“The next generation will be right at home todays eco-friendly computerized operated equipment the size of a cell phone that can now tell us where our equipment is located and what it is doing, the diameter measurement of a tree we are about to harvest and the weight of the logs as we load them on the truck,” VanNatta said. “While us old guys have had to struggle to learn how to use the new technology, these already computer savvy kids will find it to be a piece of cake. Everybody enjoys going to the Conference to see friends and colleagues, watching the competitions and getting updates on the latest methods and equipment, but it’s programs like the Women in Timber provide that will help keep our forests alive.
“Thanks to them and organizations like them, these kids are getting the education they need as well as an understanding of what is really going on in the woods.”