Clatsop County students learn benefits of forests in revived tour

A rich environment of forests and natural resources, Clatsop County in the northwest corner of Oregon offers a bounty of opportunities for careers in forestry, environmental and natural resources. Many residents aren’t aware of the economic benefits of the beauty surrounding them, however.

Clatsop County is 87% forestland, but the forestry sector only makes up 6.3% of the county workforce. Though wages are high – $70,599 on average annually – employment remains low. COVID-19 reduced the number of jobs even more and there’s been a lag in reemployment.

Until COVID-19, the annual Clatsop Sixth Grade Forestry Tour was held for over 50 years. Oregon State University Extension Service Forestry and Natural Resources Program brought the event back in the fall of 2022 after a three-year hiatus. Sixth graders were joined by the seventh and eighth grade students who weren’t able to attend during the pandemic at the Oregon Department of Forestry demonstration forest and arboretum. Dan Stark, OSU Extension forester and assistant professor of practice in the OSU College of Forestry, worked with partners, including Extension forestry colleagues, to put on the event, which drew 185 students.

Over the two-day event, the kids moved among eight stations, each with a different activity. They toured a fire engine, learned about tree planting, heard about forest health and wildlife and recreational opportunities in forestry. The students also heard about how wood products are used in daily life and how mushrooms play a critical role in the health of forests.

At one hands-on activity station, “Every Tree for Itself,” students learned how trees compete with each other to meet essential needs and described how varying amounts of light, water and nutrients affect tree growth.

As a result of the event, there is increased awareness among Clatsop County students and teachers about forests, forestry and natural resources and how they might play into a career. Having the event in the forest environment with eye-opening activities led to enthusiastic participation.

Partners for the Clatsop Sixth Grade Forestry Tour included the Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Tillamook Estuaries Partnership, Hampton Lumber, Clatsop Women in Timber, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and U.S. National Park Service.

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