Local students learn about Forest Products Industry firsthand

Contact(s): Molly Allen

Students from Trinity Lutheran School in Manistee saw firsthand how timber is harvested in the Huron-Manistee National Forests last week while visiting a timber sale.


Wearing hardhats and snow pants, 16 students ranging from Kindergarten to seventh grade observed jack pine trees being processed into wood chips before their very eyes. They watched as a feller buncher rapidly cut and "bunched" trees, a skidder delimbed and debarked harvested trees, and a large chipper reduced massive trunks to small chips. The wood chips will later be processed locally into particle board, plywood, laminate, or other forest products.


The field trip was organized by Gentz Forest Products and staff from the Cadillac/Manistee Ranger District. Students got a lesson in Forestry from Supervisory Forester Barb Heidel, who explained the role their National Forests play in supporting the local economy. National Forests provide an excellent opportunity for hands on learning and often students are unaware of the work that goes on locally.


"It's important that we teach kids about the value of their natural resources, right here in their back yard," said Heidel. "We have very rich soils in our region that produce a lot of timber. These forests provide jobs for our communities, not to mention the timber is turned into products we use every day."


Students also learned that it takes many different people to put together a timber sale. From the crews on the ground that survey for plants, animals, and archeological sites, to cruisers who mark the tress, to GIS staff who make the maps. There are many job opportunities and careers in natural resources.


"The kids (and adults) had so much fun. Some of the older kids were asking questions about forestry and working in the woods all afternoon", said fieldtrip chaperone Melissa Gentz.


The Forest Service manages the national forests and grasslands in part to provide timber. The goods and services provided by forests and grasslands create jobs and contribute to local and national prosperity. Timber sales not only contribute to the forest products industry, but they help to reduce fuels and the risk of wildfire, improve wildlife habitat, and maintain a healthy forest.