100 Years of Making Forestry Curriculum Real and Relevant

November 24th, 2014

AMES, Iowa — Making forestry curriculum relevant and applying land management concepts and skills to real-world situations has been the role of Iowa State University’s annual forestry camp since 1914.

“What’s really cool is that students learn about the complexities of land management in a multi-dimensional setting where habitat, for example, is not just an ecological or biological concept,” said John Tyndall, an associate professor at Iowa State and one of the faculty leaders for the 2014 camp in Montana. “It’s a concept that’s also embedded in regional economics, policy and the history of land use. So it’s a powerful way for students to get introduced to these things.”

The first camp was held in 1914, at Cass Lake, Minnesota, in the Chippewa National Forest. The location of the annual camp has included trips to forests in Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wyoming.

Home base for this year’s three-week forestry camp, held Sept. 13 to Oct. 3, was Lubrecht Experimental Forest, a 28,000-acre outdoor classroom and laboratory located 30 miles northeast of Missoula, Montana. Day trips to conifer forests typical of the northern Rocky Mountains included Lolo National Forest, Flathead Forest, Glacier National Park and a number of state forests.

The campers met and talked with natural resource professionals working for federal, state and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Trout Unlimited and the Blackfoot Challenge, a group of ranchers, timber industry representatives and federal organizations working to conserve large tracts of privately owned forest land. They also met with members of the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes, which own and manage much of their reservation land in northern Montana including the only recognized Native American wilderness area in the Mission Mountains.

“It’s an opportunity, early on in their academic careers, to get their hands dirty and get out in the field to do different kinds of activities and interact with lots of different people, which a classroom setting just cannot provide,” said Tyndall. “Forestry camp gives the students an opportunity to see forestry and other land use issues that are not common here in Iowa.”

He said they looked at how federal agencies manage large blocks of land, including rangeland, national forests and national parks and how they balance multiple uses, including the utilitarian aspect of land use — like harvesting wood and providing jobs and recreational opportunities — but also providing critical habitat for all kinds of species including many endangered species. The students got to see management done in the field:  areas that have been managed, those in process and those that were reaching the fruition of 20 years of management.

Ashley Hand, a graduate research assistant in the ISU Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, attended forestry camp in 2011. “I think it’s hard to get a sense of what intensive forest management looks like, particularly at ISU, because we are a forestry program in an agricultural setting. There were a lot of things at the camp that I learned. It was an incredible experience,” she said.

Faculty leaders say the camp builds student engagement, peer support and an engaged, healthy learning environment, which carries through a student’s college career and beyond. During the semester in which the students attend the camp, they are required to attend a set of six different forestry courses together.

“These kids are spending the whole semester together. It’s a very bonding activity which most students don’t get because they are not together that much,” said Richard Schultz, professor in the department and a faculty leader for the trip.

During their three-week stay, the 30 students and two camp faculty members lived in the most rustic of accommodations in Lubrecht Experimental Forest.

“They live in refurbished railroad box cars, first used in the early 1900s, as people were cutting forests to build the infrastructure of the country. Forestry workers moved in trains and they would live in these boxcars. Each has six bunk beds; a small, pot-bellied, wood-burning stove for heat; one desk and one chair for each student. It’s nothing fancy,” said Schultz.

The accommodations are the same as when he first attended Iowa State’s forestry camp in Montana in 1968, as a graduate student instructor, except a “nice shower facility with lots of hot running water” has been added.

On the weekends, students were free to sleep in or get out of the woods. But most chose to camp, further explore the forests and parks, or fish.

Zachary Burhenn, a junior in forestry and interpretation of natural resources, went fly-fishing. “When you get to spend the whole semester with the same folks in the same classes and then get three weeks to actually spend time in a cabin and being on the trail, in a beautiful landscape all the time — you can’t really beat that.”

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Camp Facts:

  • 2,900 students have attended Forestry Camp since 1914, which has been held every year, except in 1943-45, due to low enrollments during World War II
  • The first camps were held during the summer and lasted three months; they were shortened to six weeks and finally, in 1994, the camp was shortened to three weeks and moved to the fall
  • Forestry was the third largest major in the 1930’s, in what was then the College of Agriculture, and second only to animal husbandry in the 1940s

2014 Forestry Camp student participants and hometowns (a group shot is available on the news release web page):
Michael Aksamit, hometown not released
Drake Baade, Gowrie, Iowa
Zach Burhenn, Gilbert, Iowa
Damien Calvin, Des Moines, Iowa
Mario De Castro, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil
David Dalbec, Old Mill Creek, Illinois
Frank Degner, Poplar Grove, Illinois
Chris Engh, Goldfield, Iowa
Kevin Garter, Bettendorf, Iowa
Keenan Havey, Wheaton, Illinois
Katie Healy, Newton, Iowa
Isaac Hopkins, Van Horne, Iowa
Endasha Houston, Frisco, Texas
Austin Huebner, Exline, Iowa
Andrew Kretschmer, Des Moines, Iowa
Ben Krause, Bettendorf, Iowa
Luke Laavag, Des Moines, Iowa
Adam Moeding, Fort Dodge, Iowa
Matt Monahan, Woodbine, Iowa
Jon Moorman, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Carter Oliver, Woodbine, Iowa
Meghann Rudolph, Burnsville, Minnesota
Matt Shanklin, Robins, Iowa
Scott R. Thomas, LeClaire, Iowa
Nicholas Thorson, Atlantic, Iowa
Ashley VanWinkle, Davenport, Iowa
Nicholas Vial, Charlottesville, Virginia
Michael Vogt, West Des Moines, Iowa
Aaron Westphalen, Des Moines, Iowa
Daniel Wolf, hometown not released

Contacts: 

John Tyndall, Natural Resource Ecology and Management, (515) 294-4912, jtyndall@iastate.edu
Richard Schultz, Natural Resource Ecology and Management, (515) 294-7602, rschultz@iastate.edu
Lynn Laws, Sociology, (515) 294-7380, lynnlaws@iastate.edu
Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service, (515) 294-2314, edadcock@iastate.edu

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