Deliver Benefits to the Public

Engaging kids with the outdoors

Photo: Shot from behind, a group of students and adults crosses a parking lot toward a lush forest. A school bus sits off to the right.
Students and adults head out as part of Forest Discovery Days at Pattee Canyon, Lolo National Forest. Photo courtesy Missoula Chamber of Commerce.

Just before school dismissed for the summer in Missoula, Montana, nearly 400 fifth-graders got a firsthand look at harvesting timber, understanding fire ecology and identifying native wildlife with some hands-on inspection of pelts and antlers. Nine area schools send students to annual Forest Discovery Days event, which spans three days.

Lolo National Forest employees rotated students through four educational stations featuring forest ecology, wildlife, forestry competition and wildfire. Trying out the two-person cross cut saw gives them a taste of being a lumberjack. While the manual saw may seem old-fashioned to a technically savvy audience, it is still one of the most effective tools for recreation crews and virtually indispensable for work in the wilderness. Forestry has long been an important lifestyle and economic driver in western Montana, where the Lolo National Forest encompasses approximately 2 million acres.

The Missoula Chamber of Commerce's forest resource committee arranges the annual event, which requires more than 40 volunteers. A “More Kids in the Woods” grant, supplemented by Lolo staff and much community support, makes Forest Discovery Days possible. This year marked the 22nd year that the community has offered the event.