U students get look at timber sale

Jason Juno

Some University students experienced a new type of classroom this month that encompassed 2 feet of snow beneath their snowshoes, wild animals and 300 acres of forest.

The students went to northern Minnesota to interact with foresters at a timber-sale site that officials said will benefit the forest and those in need for a project called Forests for Humanity.

The foresters helped students inventory the forest to figure out the amount of pulp, said Lars Loberg, a University teaching assistant. Pulp is wood used to make paper, Loberg said.

Ten students went to the site, he said, which is near Grand Rapids, Minn. The students went for a silviculture class lab section, which pertains to managing forest ecosystems, he said.

The trek was required for the lab section, and a member of the University’s Forestry Club and the Minnesota Society of American Foresters University chapter also went.

The Minnesota Habitat for Humanity and Log-A-Load for Kids will receive monetary donations through the use of the site, according to the foresters society’s Web site. Log-A-Load for Kids donates money for special medical care for children, a society brochure read.

A learning experience

Students used tools to figure out how many annual rings a tree has and then determine the tree’s age, Loberg said. They determined the diameters of trees. Students also helped to plot out the land so the Department of Natural Resources could figure out how productive the land is.

Logging must be done in the winter months, when the ground is frozen, to reduce damage to the ground, Loberg said.

“It was really neat, because when many of these guys graduate, they are going to go out and set up timber sales,” he said.

Loberg said it was good to learn about the tools used in a timber sale, go snowshoeing and see wildlife.

Students also learned how to identify trees – without the leaves on them, he said. That takes looking at the bark, among other things, he said.

For students, the trip was a chance to apply classroom teachings to real life, said Eric Zenner, the class professor.

Students said they enjoyed the experience.

It was natural resources senior Sara Stack’s first time working with the Department of Natural Resources. She said it was good to do field work with them.

Stack said she would like to get an internship with the department this summer.

Bill Hakala, a forest resources senior, said he was able to learn a forester’s job.

Adam Fisher, a natural resources senior, said he found out what it is like to be in the woods in the winter.

“I learned what kind of conditions you have to deal with in the winter – that’s a big thing,” he said. “Snow sucks, snowshoeing sucks.”

A private land owner donated the land to the society’s Forests for Humanity program, according to the society’s Web site.

Loberg said he expects the land will be logged next winter. There should be a lot of money for the charity groups, but he said he was uncertain how much.

A fleet of volunteers

Each step of the process is done by volunteers, Zenner said.

“That’s why it’s such an immense and beautiful work,” he said.

Zenner said he required those in the natural resources program to take the trip to put students in contact with foresters so students could ask questions and experience a real situation.

He said loggers will probably be “thinning” the 300 acres. This will also help the forest by giving the leftover trees more room to grow. That means the trees will grow bigger and have more of an old-growth forest, he said.

Bigger trees are also more profitable, he said.