Out of the classroom and into the wood
The Montrose High School AP Biology class, along with their teacher Rusty George, spent the school day outside on the Uncompahgre Plateau getting hands-on experience in forestry and ecology work. The class learned how to collect vegetation data involved in the monitoring efforts of a larger forest restoration effort: The Uncompahgre Plateau Collaborative Forest Restoration Project. This science-based restoration project is a joint effort between the USDA Forest Service, Uncompahgre Partnership, CSU’s Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, conservation groups and forest product industry which seeks to enhance the resiliency, diversity and productivity of native ecosystems on the Uncompahgre Plateau.
“Students had an opportunity to learn about forest ecology and management through actual field protocols for gathering information,” said Rusty George. “The student’s enthusiasm was exciting and they loved being out in the forest.” Tim Garvey, silviculturist for the Forest Service, explained to the students the need for treatments in the forest, including reducing the risk of large, severe wildfires. “It is heartening to see in these young citizen scientists, such keen interest in the ecology and management of their local public lands.”
In addition to school field trips, the USDA Forest Service and Uncompahgre Partnership have also established a summer forestry intern program. “We have had seven Montrose high school students work for us over the past two summers and they have done excellent work under the supervision of Biology teacher Rusty George”, said Tammy Randall-Parker, Forest Service Ouray District Ranger. “The high school students and their monitoring helped us to get a Forest Restoration grant that will support forest monitoring work for many years to come.”
“We are interested in promoting environmental education and community-based conservation efforts”, stated Pam Motley, education coordinator for the Uncompahgre Partnership. “We hope to continue involving high school students in our work. Passing this knowledge and awareness onto youth is vital to future forest health and the communities of western Colorado.”
“The Forest Service is very appreciative of our great working relationship with Montrose High School”, Randall-Parker said. “We need to recruit some of these students to be our future workforce and the more these students know about forest management issues will help the Forest Service better manage our lands in the future.”