Forestry Skills Come to the Classroom

By Jan Jackson –

Competing in cross from Knappa High School are: Gus Lawson, left and Alexis Whiteside. Ryan Fresh is the official oiler.

SCIO, Ore. — Scio High School hosted the first-of-the-school year Future Natural Resource Leadership of Oregon Career Development Event on Oct. 11, drawing 193 students who competed in activities that included forestry skills, tree and tool identification, first aid procedures, map reading, speeches and job interviews.

FNRL, chartered in 2016 to bridge the gap between classroom training and real world applications, is one of seven Career and Technical Student Leadership Organizations in Oregon.

Students from Clatskanie, Corvallis, Knappa, Sabin (Milwaukie), Philomath, Scio, Sweet Home, Tillamook, Waldport and Yoncalla high schools competed in the events.

Rex Lowther, who has been teaching forestry, wood shop and small engine classes at Scio High School since 2004, said he was satisfied with this year’s event.

Mackenzie Taylor,
Tillamook High School competes in pole climbing.

“As far as I know, Scio’s program started in the 1970s as the Associated Oregon Forestry Clubs and ended in 2008 when they lost their funding,” Lowther said. “A core group of instructors kept the CDEs going until FNRL of Oregon was chartered in 2014 and began chartering chapters in 2016.

“We had several industry volunteers help us on Thursday, which is great because it exposed the kids to different job opportunities. For instance, Jeannie Shuttleworth, a log buyer from Giustina Resources, was our job interviewer and two kids were asked to interview for real with the company,” he said. “The two foresters who were teaching compass and pacing are local and manage a large family tree farm. It is nice to have people who are in the industry support these kids and give them exposure to potential future careers.”

Reilly Norgren and Keagen Holest, Clatskanie High School, compete in cable splicing.

Each high school program is locally controlled and varies by needs of the communities, strengths of the advisers and direction of the local school district. The FNRL is a state Career Technical Student Organization and is basically the leadership portion of the program. The CTSO also hosts different events for students including leadership training and FNRL state convention.

“The primary difference is that our students at the chapter level have the opportunity to grow in their leadership abilities and work and share directly with industry professionals,” Lowther said. “These students gain valuable experience, which gives them opportunities to learn to communicate directly with industry professionals and share what we do not only in our local programs, but also as a statewide organization.”

There are 24 students — 18 boys and 6 girls — in Scio High School’s forestry program.

Log rolling contestants.

“We are a little down from previous years mainly due to a decline in this year’s school enrollment,” he said. “We’ll be focusing on recruitment for next year to try to bring up the numbers a bit. There is a point of diminishing returns, however, because if we get too big then it limits what we can do as a class overall. The most effective number is 15 per class period.”

Scio High School senior Grant Ortiz, current FNRL president, was also happy to see the event going so well.

Grant Ortiz, 20180/2019 FNRL President.

“I competed in my first CDE in middle school, so this one will be my eighth,” Ortiz said while waiting to compete in the log rolling contest.

Scio always hosts the first meet of the season, the next one will be held in Tillamook in two weeks and then we won’t do any more until next spring,” he said. “This year’s event was different for me, though, because it is the first one I’ve participated in a leadership role.”

For more information on FNRL contact Kirk Hutchinson at 503-550-0471 or email him at


Photos by Jan Jackson

Cover photo: Forest firefighter and Corvallis High School staff member Jose Schofield instructs  Andre Opsahl in the importance of chain saw use and maintenance.

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Article Categories:
Coffee Shop Moments · Forest Keeping · Nature · Rural life

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