Blog Archive 2010 – 2015

Diane’s Blog

December 2015 – What happened to October and November? It’s a wonderful blur of events, from one end of our great state to the other. With the most successful year of Forestry Challenge events now in the books, I’d like to share a few of my favorite moments with you:

Shasta – At our mill tour at Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) in Anderson, the mill was shut down by the time we got there, but our tour guides turned on some of the key machines to demonstrate how they work. The technology that makes rectangular boards out of round logs, with minimal waste, is amazing!

Sequoia – Bark beetles have taken a huge toll on trees recently, especially ones in the South Sierra. We watched loggers at Mountain Home Demonstration state forest drop a beautiful sugar pine, which will at least provide lumber and no longer be a hazard at Sunset Point.

El Dorado – “Woot woot! All aboard!” was the call as the Leoni Meadows train left the station on a late night journey. It was a gorgeous night to view the meadow and gaze at the stars, and a great way to start the event.

Santa Cruz – Cold but sunny weather made for spectacular views as our busses wound their way to Soquel Demonstration State Forest. The staff at SDSF arranged a stellar fieldtrip, complete with a fully-staffed CalFire engine used for wildland fire fighting and medical emergencies.

San Bernardino — I’ve heard it never rains in Southern California, but it does snow! Winter made an early appearance with a blanket of white on the ground for the entire event. Fieldwork was not hindered since it was a thin layer, but there was enough to make some sizable snowballs.

As Thanksgiving has passed and we now enter the last few weeks before the end of the year, I am thankful for the dedication of all of you to the Forestry Challenge, and am working to put 2015 in the archives and start anew on 2016.

September 2015 – Well, things are hopping here at “Forestry Challenge Central”. Teachers, thank you for giving me accurate headcounts. Right now my best guess is that 445 students will participate this year, up from 300 last year! It has been great that so many of you have asked if you can bring more students than originally planned, because interest is so high.

I am in the process of updating the Learning Resources pages of the website, so you have all of the study materials you need. If you would like to be matched up with a forester who can visit your classroom, please let me know.

As a follow-up to my last update, I did successfully complete a 130 mile backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail in July. One of the best things that happened on the trip was running into 4 hikers from Ponderosa High School in Shingle Springs, one of whom, Aaron Bezdek, went to the 2014 Shasta Forestry Challenge!

Here is a photo of us on top of 11,955 foot Muir Pass. Yes, that’s a kilt he’s wearing. Many long-distance hikers prefer skirts or kilts over pants.

Now that I’m off the trail, and my head is “back in the game”, it’s time to get the event season started. I can’t wait to see old friends and meet new ones at this year’s Forestry Challenge.

July 2015 – The Dog Days of Summer are here. I hope you have all had a chance to escape the heat and go to the forest. I’m part way through making my rounds to the various Forestry Challenge sites to set up the fieldtrips and testing and, in general, it hasn’t been too hot. Shasta, Sequoia, and part of Santa Cruz are set up (thanks to help from awesome foresters Pete Johnson, Scott Carnegie, David Van Lennep, and Jim Kral), with the other event locations soon to follow.

Pre-registration went well this spring, with about 440 students from 53 schools signed up. Shasta, Sequoia, and Santa Cruz are all at capacity, with space for a few more schools at El Dorado and San Bernardino. Teachers – thanks for getting those forms in so I can plan accordingly for the fall.

In addition to making the rounds in California, I recently attended a teacher workshop in Oregon where I learned a lot about forestry in Oregon, including tours of the woods, and veneer and biomass facilities. I was also able to connect with the good folks from the Oregon Forest Resource Institute, which put on the workshop, and I will be traveling to Portland in late August to talk about expanding the Challenge to Oregon in the future.

I’m also pleased to let you know that I now have two employees: Lori Parlin, a longtime friend, who is helping me with all things technology related, and Annika Duden, a business major at University of Colorado, who is helping me pursue grants and sponsorships. These ladies will be contributing to the success of the Forestry Challenge, hopefully for a long time to come.

Lastly, please be aware that I’ll be out of touch for a few weeks this month, as I backpack a 126 mile section of the John Muir Trail.

June 2015 – It’s been a whirlwind, as schools end their academic year and close down for the summer. I have had the privilege of visiting several high schools to hand out awards, and want to make mention of them here. I presented Marysville HS with their El Dorado pacing contest trophy, Katy Etchison of Elk Grove HS with a 4-year award, the CA Academy of Mathematics and Science with the San Bernardino perpetual and pacing contest trophies, and Oscar Cruz of Sacramento New Tech HS with a 4- year award. Forestry Challenge alum Jessica Parlin represented the Challenge as she presented Carley Hangebrauck of Ponderosa HS with a 4-year award. Way to go!

I am also pleased that the 2014 Annual Report is completed and mailed, a copy of which is linked at the bottom of this page.

Now that 2014 is officially in the books, I can turn my attention to the year ahead. There are now about 400 students from 46 schools officially pre-registered for events, and several others I expect to be joining the list soon. I have made visits to dozens of new schools, and am seeing the fruits of that labor, as 7 new schools are already poised to join us.

So students and teachers, I hope you enjoy your summer, and have a chance to get out and immerse yourselves in the forest, as I plan to do in the months ahead, including a 120 mile backpack trip in July on the John Muir Trail. I’ll also mix a little “work” in with the play, visiting event sites to set up the focus topics and field tests. But truly, the line between work and play is pretty blurry. I consider myself fortunate to be associated with all of you and this program.

May 2015 – I want to thank the teachers who have pre registered for the fall events. As of right now, 260 students from 27 schools are signed up, and will receive the 50% discount on their registration fees. I would like to recognize Pat Foy from Charter Oak High School and Rachel Castongia from Summerville High School for recruiting a new teacher and getting the free registration I offered. Thanks, ladies!

It’s been interesting to see that schools are not necessarily going to the event closest to home. Many are traveling to another part of the state to see a different forest type. Remember, you are free to go to any event that best suits your schedule.

Volunteers are also signing up to help out, and a few college students are already asking to be on staff. I’ll be making one last push to get the word out about the May 31st deadline for the 50% discount. Then, in June, I’ll turn my attention to visiting the event sites to lay out field tests and determine field trip routes. I also plan to take some time off to enjoy the forest. Teachers, I’ll be thinking of you as you finish the school year and start a well- deserved summer break.

April 2015 – Here we go again! With 2014 in the books, a new year of Forestry Challenge awaits. Teachers and volunteers, I cannot tell you how important it is to have your input now. The fall is such a rush that the more I know now, the better prepared I can be. Please complete and return either the pre-registration form or the volunteer form, linked on the left side of this page.

Many aspects of the 2015 events will remain the same as last year: There will be 5 events in the same areas, the dates are similar, and teachers who pre-register before May 31 will receive a 50% discount on registration fees. Here’s what has changed: Due to scheduling conflicts with the 2014 event site, the San Bernardino Forestry Challenge has moved to Calvary Chapel Christian Camp in Green Valley Lake. Second, the scholarship has been modified to make many more students eligible to receive a $3,000 cash award. Lastly, returning teachers who recruit one or more new schools will receive a free registration for each new school.

So “don’t delay, act now”! Go to the links on the event pages and send me your completed forms. I’ll be finalizing focus topics in May and June, but what I have so planned far is going to be great!

December 2014 – Wow, if there’s one thing I can say, it is that I’m consistent. I wrote the November blog half way through the month, and here it is, December 15, and I am just now writing this month’s blog. I’m working to get the year-end activities wrapped up, and I’d like to share some highlights of the 2014 events with you:

Shasta: Congressman Doug LaMalfa planting a tree with the students on the 2012 Ponderosa Fire site. Sequoia: The incredible view from the top of the hill on the last fieldtrip stop at Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest. El Dorado: The rainstorm that swept in just as the presentations were over on the last day. Santa Cruz: Getting to sit front and center for the group photo with the huge group of 93 students. San Bernardino: Waking up to a dusting of snow on Friday morning.

With your support, we had a record total of 300 students at this year’s events, up from 206 students in both 2012 and 2013. Looking forward to 2015, I am already setting dates for events and will have them finalized by sometime in February.

So, signing off for 2014, have a wonderful holiday season and a restful break from school and everyday life.

November 2014 – There’s nothing good about an out-of-date website. If I’m surfing and I see a website with the last update in 2010, it makes an impression on me. That said, I know I’ve been neglectful with my monthly update, and I realize that’s not good at all.

So, with November almost half gone, I’m fixing that. With four events behind us, and the last one next week, it’s been a great run this fall. We are still headed for the 300 mark for student participation (a 50% increase over last year), and it has been a pleasure to spend time with all of you. The weather has been perfect, and the volunteers have represented the forestry profession well.

But, before resting and reflecting on the accomplishments of 2014, I have the privilege of making new friends and catching up with a few past participants at the San Bernardino Forestry Challenge next week. I wondered, at the end of last year, if doing 5 events was a good idea. By next time this week, I’ll know for sure, but I feel confident that the answer is a resounding YES!

September 2014 – As I write this month’s update, I am on my way back from my son’s graduation ceremony from Army Basic Combat Training, also known as “Boot Camp”, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Click here for a photo.) He successfully completed one of the most rigorous challenges a person can undertake. I believe one of the reasons he was successful is because of his attitude. He said he woke up everyday thinking about the cool stuff he was going to get to do, rather than focusing on the 100 degree humid heat, the drudgery of daily physical training, and the constant badgering of the drill sergeants.

I, too, am entering the “Boot Camp” phase of planning for the upcoming Forestry Challenge events. I must endure a lack of sleep and the stress of juggling registration, test writing, and logistics of five events, and complete every task with the high quality I demand from myself. I will do my best to remember my son’s positive attitude, and focus on what inspires me – the motivated students, dedicated teachers, and loyal volunteers – that keep me striving to make each event an excellent experience for all.

So on that note, please know that I am available to you anytime my phone is on, and it is on except when I’m asleep which, these days, isn’t much! I am excited to think about the good things that are soon to come as we get together to learn about and engage in the forest. I can’t wait to see all of you soon!

August 2014 – It’s that time again. My daughter already started her sophomore year, and I wonder how much earlier school will continue to start in our district before they jump the date back a week. But, being back in school mode gets me back to work, which is good. There’s lots to do before the events start next month.

I am excited to say that the 2013 Annual Report has been mailed, not only to past and potential sponsors, but to the principals of all of the schools that participated in 2013. Teachers, I’ve asked your principal to pass these copies along to you. Sponsors are stepping up in a big way, and almost every day I receive a check from another devoted sponsor. I’ll update the “Sponsors” page of the website soon.

And if you’re on Facebook, go to the Forestry Challenge page and vote for your favorite t-shirt color for this year. So far, maroon has a slight edge over blue, with purple and brown trailing. I’ll have to make a decision by the second week in September, so be sure to cast your vote soon!

July, 2014 – I’m in “nose to the grindstone” mode here at Forestry Challenge HQ. I have sent out about 115 Annual Reports for 2013. It is amazing to think about how each report sent represents a company that sponsors the event, a facility that houses an event, or a volunteer who dedicates hours of time to the Forestry Challenge.

I’m pushing to get it done because I’m going on a 60 mile, 7 day backpacking trip next week in the Southern Sierra. I’m excited to spend some time amongst the giant sequoias, and also in the barren high country. My friends have not spent time with the giants, and I am as excited to see their reaction to the trees as I am to be there myself.

As I look forward to seeing all of you in the forest this fall, I am happy to tell you about the donation 100 hard hats and 100 pairs of safety glasses from John Deere. Thanks, Thad Currier, from the Construction & Forestry Marketing Division, for making it happen. We will all be safer out there in the forest as a result.

June, 2014 – I am writing from beautiful Meadow Valley Camp, which is a UC Berkeley forestry field camp. I am here for the first of four summer sessions of the Forestry Institute for Teachers (FIT), an outstanding, week-long program that exposes teachers of all grade levels to the complexities of forestry. My dad attended field camp here as part of his forestry degree 60 years ago. As I look around the property, I wonder how much it has changed over those years. I’m absolutely sure it looked quite different, not only the facility, but the surrounding forest.

I am pleased to report that there are now 38 schools pre-registered for the five Forestry Challenge events coming this fall. I did my best to encourage schools to pre-register, and all events except the San Bernardino are near capacity. I will continue to encourage more schools to sign up but, now that schools are out for the summer, I’ll turn my attention to fundraising and planning the program content for each event.

I’ll be sending the 2013 Annual Report out soon to past sponsors. A few have recently sent their donations, including the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference and the Amador-El Dorado Forest Forum. I would also like to announce that the US Forest Service is providing support in 2014 and 2015 through its Forest Stewardship program, which will be hugely helpful in maintaining the Challenge’s high quality and allowing it to expand to its logical build out of 5 events.

May 2014 – There are only a few more weeks before school is out, and I’m trying to get the word out to schools that NOW is the time to pre register for the fall events. The response has been great so far, with somewhere around 200 students from 25 schools already signed up. The capacity for all events is 350 this year, so there’s still space but there may not be once school starts again.

I was thinking today about my own son, who is graduating on May 30, and how quickly the high school years have gone by. The window for teaching our youth about responsible forest management is very small. I encourage all of you to get involved, as a volunteer, a sponsor, or to recruit your local school. Every year that passes when a school doesn’t participate is a lost opportunity.

Lastly, I wanted to mention what a great time I had at the 2014 Forest Landowners of California Annual Meeting, held in Mt. Shasta a few days ago. The members are great supporters of the Forestry Challenge, and it was great to reconnect with them, and see what’s going on in the forests of beautiful Siskiyou County.

March/April 2014 – Spring is now here and, with that, major updates to the Forestry Challenge website. An “Events” page has been created for the new San Bernardino Forestry Challenge. Additionally, all links to the forms on the Events pages are up to date, ready for 2014. I encourage all of you visiting this website to use the links on the left to preregister, volunteer, or apply for a staff position. Having this information now, especially pre-registration information from the schools, makes the planning process much easier.

This year so far has been a whirlwind of meetings, conferences, and events. The Forestry Challenge program continues to add new sponsors and volunteers, and I am working on ways to contact new schools, particularly schools in the South end of the state, which can now get to an event without traveling too far.

I am putting the finishing touches on the 2013 Annual Report, and will have it available on the website soon. Past sponsors can look for a printed copy to arrive in the mail, along with a request for their financial support for this year. In addition to the direct event sponsors, I am compiling a list of companies by geographical region that may be available to help schools defray their registration fees.

I will continue to update the Events pages as I narrow down and identify the Focus Topics for each event.

January 2014 – I am changing the updates to a monthly update from a weekly update, for two reasons. Looking back, I realize that I was not posting weekly anyway and, also, this time of year there is not enough going on to warrant a weekly update.

As we ring in the New Year, I will start the tried-and-true cycle all over again. The first order of business was to summarize the previous year with a one-page summary (linked below) and then develop a comprehensive Annual Report, which will be started soon. Here’s the way 2013 was: I was able to deliver the program to EXACTLY the same number of students (206) with $12,000 less in income. Additionally, I lost my email contacts list the week before the first event, and I am still trying to recover from that. In short, `13 lived up to its reputation, but we survived and will I continue to provide a quality program in at least 4 locations this year.

Although I expect the event locations and dates to be nearly the same in 2014 as in 2013, I will be finalizing the events soon and will post the information next month. In the meantime, I will be attending conferences and sending fundraising letters so that I can continue to deliver the same quality program as always.

I wish everyone a prosperous and meaningful 2014.

October 20, 2013 – Time marches on. No matter if I am ready or not, the 2013 event season is here, and will soon be over. At the halfway point I am feeling relieved that the first two events, the Shasta and Sequoia, were successful. At the same time, I am sad in a way that they are actually done. Introducing new students and teachers to the program, as well as welcoming back returning participants, is what inspires me to push hard. New to the event this year were schools from Long Beach and Anaheim, and it is increasingly clear that an event closer to them is needed in 2014.

The press releases that teachers help me complete are making their way into local newspapers. Below are links to articles about Anderson New Technology, Marysville, and Minarets High Schools’ participation. I’m also sending the releases to each high school’s district office, as many school districts have their own newsletters. If any of you teachers see an article, please let me know about it. Clippings mailed to me are good too.

Looking forward, the weather forecast for the El Dorado Forestry Challenge is perfect. Matthew Ureno, staff leader for 2013, tells me that returning students have set up a chat group on Facebook, and are all looking forward to a great event. Me too!

Anderson NT: Red Bluff Daily News


Minarets: Sierra Star

September 25, 2013 – Today marks the first day of the first event of 2013. This year is a milestone year, as this is the 10 anniversary of the first event. As I make the final preparations for the event, it seems like I am forgetting something. I think what’s really happening is that it is getting easier each time I do it. That’s a blessing, considering I do have now expanded and conduct four events in rapid succession.

But the hard part, the part that complicated the preparations more than anything else, is that my email account was hacked 8 days ago, and my contacts list was destroyed. I did not appreciate the amount of information stored in the account until it was lost. I now have a new email address, listed on the banner of the website, and I strongly urge each of you to back up your contacts list.

The Shasta event starts tomorrow and, interestingly enough, it will be the smallest event this year, with 49 students and 9 teachers from 7 schools. Last year it was the largest. There is no particular reason for the change – schools move from one event to another depending on their schedule, which is the case here. I am excited to welcome two new schools, Etna and Westwood, both the first high schools from their counties (Siskiyou and Lassen, respectively) to participate.

I look forward to seeing all of you soon!

September 14, 2013 – I was a hermit for a few days this week, and escaped to my cabin in the woods to sequester and immerse myself in the daunting task of test writing. Shasta’s test is basically finished, and I made strides in other areas as well. When I’m test writing, I think about how the students will react to my questions. I enjoy observing them taking the test, and hearing their feedback later. When the kids talk to me, they talk about the test writer as if they aren’t making the connection that I am the one who wrote it – it’s kind of amusing.

Right now we have between 276 and 312 students from 39 schools on the spreadsheet, up from 206 last year. Several schools are receiving training from local foresters, and a few have used a speaker phone so I can participate in their training sessions.

Lastly, I want to share a Prezi presentation created by the students from Anaheim High School as a tool to let potential sponsors and school administrators know about their participation in the Sequoia Forestry Challenge. It is extremely well done and an inspiration to me to work hard so the 2013 events are the best ever.

September 7, 2013 – It’s time to get out the “master check list” as I call it, to make sure I am taking care of every last detail leading up to event season. I keep telling myself that I can get a lot done in 18 days, which is the start date of the Shasta Forestry Challenge. But to convince myself, I need to keep checking the items off the list. Have faith!

I got an email this morning that made my day: “I am in hopes that it is not too late to get registered. I have had to wait to see what days I had available on a class I need to take. The kids have been on me like “Ticks on a dog” if we were going to get to go or not.” I love to hear that the students are so enthusiastic! No, it is not too late to get registered, but it will be soon. Right now the numbers are looking good, with 60 to 70 students expected at each event except for Santa Cruz, where the number now hovers around 80.

I’ll leave you with a conversation I had with a teacher yesterday. He was weighing the benefit of participation with the sacrifice of two days away from campus for himself and his students. I told him what I tell all of you at the welcome assembly: I realize that spending time at a Forestry Challenge event comes the expense of your normal and busy lives. My personal mission is to make it an experience that is well worth that sacrifice. Now, back to the checklist…

August 26, 2013 – I am on the verge of blasting out to all of the teachers who have pre registered, and even those who haven’t, to let everyone know that the Learning Resource pages are 90% complete with items to know and the links that contain the actual information. Long hours have been spent and credit can be given to my “tech angel” Dennis for helping me get the information uploaded.

I got an email today that made my week, from one of the students I met last spring in the Los Angeles area. Here is a summary of what Sophia had to say: “You had visited us last school year. Hopefully you remember us because your presentation had an outstanding impact on the members of our club. We’ve already had many inquiries about the program. It will definitely be an amazing experience for our all of us, and we really do hope many of our club members can attend.”

I replied that I am so glad that the California Academy of Math and Sciences, based on the campus of CSU Dominguez Hills, looks poised to participate. With that, I’ll push even harder to get all of the study materials posted soon and make the 2013 events the best ever.

August 19, 2013 – Summer is at its peak, as evidenced by the smoke and high temperatures here in the foothills. But, for me, summer is functionally over, as my kids have been back in school for over a week. I miss the crisp mountain air and daily hiking at my cabin in near Lake Tahoe, but I realize it is time to dig in and get back to work at making this fall’s Forestry Challenge events the best ever!

That said, I’ll be updating the Learning Resources pages soon with the final list of “need to know” items for teachers and students. I’ll be checking in with teachers who pre-registered in the spring, to make sure we’re on track for their participation and see if there is anything they need at this time.

If you are a teacher interested in bringing students, or wanting to volunteer for a few hours or a few days, please complete and return the appropriate form linked on this page of the website. The earlier I hear from you, the better. There is still space at all of the events, for both students and volunteers.

July 13, 2013 – As summer gets into full swing, I get into full summertime mode. Daily hiking prepared me for a 30 mile, 2 day trip I finished yesterday, which was a warm up for a 64 mile, 7 day trip up the backbone of the Southern Sierra next week. I’m trying to “pack it all in” (pun intended) before my kids go back to school in early August. Then I will be brought back to reality and will be more diligent with preparing for the fall Forestry Challenge events.

But that is not to say I have not been doing any work this summer. A few weeks ago I attended the California Agriculture Teachers’ Association (CATA) Annual Meeting in San Luis Obispo. It was great to see so many teachers who are Forestry Challenge participants, as well as to meet some teachers who showed interest in coming to an event this year.

Then, last week, I visited Mountain Meadows, the site of the Shasta Forestry Challenge, to set up the field test and explore options for the focus topic and associated fieldtrip. I now have field test data collected for all four sites, and have begun test writing.

I’ll be updating the Learning Resources pages by August 1 students and teachers will know exactly what to start learning before the events start in late September.

June 20, 2013 – Wow, I’ve let a whole month slip away as the school year ended for my kids and summer has begun! I am now living at my cabin for the summer, hiking and mountain biking daily on the endless variety of trails out my back door. If any of you are traveling through Twin Bridges on Highway 50 from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe, and want to stop by, just let me know. I really do think about all of you and how I would enjoy showing you my slice of Heaven on Earth.

But I promised in my last Weekly Update to tell you about the L.A. River School and Anaheim High School, both of which I visited on my Southern California trip at the end of April. The L.A. River School (LARS) is a pilot school that is part of the Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies, along with two other pilot schools and two independent charter schools. They have the benefits of a large campus, yet the advantages of a more personal learning environment. LARS just dedicated the Sally Ride Center for Environmental Science. click here for an article on the facility.

I was also able to visit Anaheim High School and meet with science teachers Angela Lewis and Joe Chavez. We spent about an hour talking about the group of fifteen students that they have preregistered for the Sequoia Forestry Challenge. They are an energetic pair of teachers and they tell me that the students are really excited about participating.

May 20, 2013 – As promised last week, I am going to give you some details of my trip to So Cal, to scout out an event there for the fall of 2014. But, first, I want to say I really appreciate the pre-registration forms I have received so far. Here are the totals, both minimum and maximum, students pre-registered per event: Shasta 51 to 54, Sequoia 29 to 36, El Dorado 34 to 42, and Santa Cruz 40. Keep those forms coming! By knowing who wants to participate and their financial need, I can do a better job of fundraising over the summer.

I want to tell you about the schools I visited while in So Cal. Canoga Park High School, in a very urban San Fernando Valley, has an oasis of a school farm, complete with animals and large redwood trees. Because the students do not have a nearby opportunity to take their animals to the fair, their philosophy is to bring the area residents to the farm for education days and a farmer’s market. Some of the projects are still in the conceptual stage, but others are fully operational. I especially enjoyed the beautiful grove of large trees that made me feel I was not in the city.

I also visited the California Academy of Math and Sciences, located on the campus of CSU Dominguez Hills. Student Makaylah Respicio and I have been in communication for months now, and I finally got to meet her, along with principal Janice Filer and teacher Matt Gold. I was very impressed with the lunchtime meeting of students, gathered to hear me talk about the Challenge. And they weren’t even serving free food!

I’ll look forward to telling everyone about the L.A. River School and Anaheim High School in my next update.

May 8, 2013 – It certainly has been a whirlwind of activity the last few weeks. No sooner did I send out the “blast out” of emails, my Inbox was flooded with over 100 responses! It was overwhelming in a very positive way, and a testament to the support and dedication of Forestry Challenge participants and volunteers. If you haven’t done so already, please complete and return a pre registration or volunteer form linked in the center of this website’s home page.

Tomorrow I am on the road again to spend a few days at the Forest Landowners of California Annual Meeting in Santa Cruz County. I am looking forward to seeing familiar faces and touring local family-owned forests. I’ll also get to stomp around Redwood Christian Park, staking out the field test area for the 2013 Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge.

In the next few Weekly Updates I want to detail some of the highlights of my trip a few weeks ago to Southern California to scout out a facility, schools, and volunteers for a fifth Forestry Challenge event scheduled for the fall of 2014. I had an extremely productive trip and met some wonderful students, teachers, and natural resource professionals, who will most certainly insure the success of an event in that area.

April 21, 2013 – Blast Out! I have just organized the over 1,100 contacts in my database and have sent messages to teachers, volunteers, and staff, asking if they will be participating in a Forestry Challenge event this fall. I appreciate each and every one of your replies. Having even “ballpark data” helps me plan for the fall. Please take a moment to fill out and return one of the forms linked on this page.

Some very good news came Friday, in the form of the following email from Abby Wilder of the Mary A. Crocker Trust: “Hi Diane, I am happy to tell you that $10,000.00 will be coming your way. Dave is a great spokesman for your organization and everyone was very impressed, once again, with your work… I hope this brings a bit of happiness to an otherwise very sobering week. All the best to you – Abby” Her reference to Dave is none other than Board Member Dave Whitridge, who volunteered as a judge at the 2012 Santa Cruz event. Both the beneficiary schools and I really appreciate the financial and volunteer support of the Trust!

And lastly, I’m off on quite an adventure, starting tomorrow. I’m flying to Southern California to spend 6 days scouting out facilities, schools, and professional support for a fifth Forestry Challenge event scheduled for the fall of 2014. It’s not too early to start planning, and so far I’ve received a very welcoming reception in the “Southland”.

April 11, 2013 – There are some things that can easily make your day. Mine was made last week when I received a heartfelt set of thank you letters from the students at Woodside High School, in San Mateo County, who attended the 2012 Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge. Here are some quotable quotes:

From Vanessa: “I have truly learned a lot these past two years that I would never have learned if it was not for the Forestry Challenge… We learned together in a hands-on, exciting way that made this experience unforgettable.”

From Gemma, a graduating Senior: “Being a part of the Forestry Challenge for the past three years has been an unforgettable experience… I can say I will miss the Forestry Challenge because I have learned so much, and have experienced really special moments.”

From Jasmin: “Everything at the Forestry Challenge was so interesting, it made me wonder about the career path I want to take.”

From Amber: “From my experience, I feel that the Forestry Challenge can and does change the minds of young teens, because it shows us how the Earth takes care of us, and how we play a big part of how it continues to do that.”

And, as teacher Ann Akey ends her note to me, “Happy Spring.”

April 2, 2013 – I am excited to report that we have our first school pre-registered for a fall Forestry Challenge. Trent Hatfield from Bandon (Oregon!) High school sent in his form today and wrote, “We have been working hard to add a forestry program at Bandon High School and would like to bring another team to Shasta next year IF we can secure support from donors and our school board again. We are very hopeful that we will able to attend your excellent event again.” THANK YOU, Trent, for sending in that form, wanting to come back, and thinking NOW about fundraising and scheduling for next school year.

The more of you that send in forms now and express your need for financial support, the better a case I have when I apply for sponsorships. Last year I was able to grant over $26,000 in direct support to schools and, with your help, I hope to match that amount this year.

All information on event dates and locations is on the “Events” pages, and is also on the Forestry Challenge Facebook page.

March 26, 2013 – I am leaving early today for a family trip to, of all places, New York City. That may come as a surprise to many of you. Why would I want to go to a place about as far from the forest as you can get? Well, I can tell you that there are a lot of interesting things about a large city. I love the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and we’ll certainly have a great time showing the kids Times Square.

But, really, the forest and humans are not mutually exclusive. The two actually do have a longstanding relationship, and a positive one. Humans have been manipulating the forest for eons, and we really do have a legitimate place in the forest ecosystem. Humans can and are able to manage the forest to result in a vibrant and healthy ecosystem.

I’ll be gone until Saturday, then will be ready to continue forging ahead on plans for the four events coming up this fall. My webmaster, Dennis, and I have been hard at work, updating the website for the fall. Please check out the “2013 Events” pages for links to the schedule, rules, and release forms. But for now, the best thing teachers can do is pre-register. The form is available through the link at the top of this Home Page.

March 18, 2013 – In the beginning years of the Forestry Challenge, there was a “slow season”, usually from about December to March. In 2013, the tenth anniversary of the program’s start, I will rename this time of year the “fast season”, as opposed to the “faster season” of the fall. Lots of great things are happening, and here are some of them:

Students made an impact with their guest appearances at the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference (SCLC) and the California Licensed Foresters Association (CLFA). This photo is of Dexter Davis, Deshayne Sewart, Johanna Call, (myself,) and Brandon Long, who helped with the SCLC Education Auction in Anderson in February. A substantial portion of the auction proceeds go to the Forestry Challenge. This March 8 photo shows Ashley Bolger, Max Madsen, and Kirstie Wangan making a presentation at the CLFA annual meeting. Many CLFA members volunteer their time and expertise at all four Challenge events.

This fast season is also the time when many grant applications are due. I often incorporate statements from teacher and student evaluation forms in these applications, statements which have a great impact on the applications’ chances of being noticed and funded.

Lastly, I am nailing down the dates and locations of the four events scheduled for the fall. Get all of the details on the updated “2013 Events” item on the menu bar.

December 21, 2012 – If the world IS really ending in a few hours, then this update is a futile effort. But in the spirit of taking care of unfinished business, I’ll offer a few tidbits on end-of-the-year activities.

First off, I have been the “trophy fairy” lately, flitting about, presenting traveling trophies. I was able to award Tony White from Elk Grove High School the Tom Eustis Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence at a recent school staff meeting. For a photo, click here. Each event’s traveling trophy is now in the hands of the event champions. Here is thePonderosa High School team. that won the El Dorado Forestry Challenge.

We had our last Board Meeting of the year, and I was happy to report to the Board that we have had our best year ever, in terms of attendance, number of events, and financial support from our sponsors. I’ve sent framed event photos to 35 of our sponsors, and will be assembling a PowerPoint year-end report that will appear on this website soon.

And, in what is becoming an annual tradition, the winning team of all winning teams, Anderson New Technology High School, gave their presentation to the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection in early December. The team was awarded “Apprentice Forester” certificates (photo here).. I look forward to several other guest appearances from top teams at conferences and gatherings in the first quarter of 2013.

So, here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I will mark the end of 2012 with thankful and humble heart, and ring in 2013 with hope and enthusiasm.

November 1, 2012 – It’s been almost a month since I have written a Weekly Update. There’s a good reason why: Three events are now complete, and the last one of the year, the Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge, is next week. It’s been an amazing time for me, to conduct these events in rapid succession, and also very rewarding. Here are some highlights of the first three:

The winning team from the Shasta Forestry Challenge, from Anderson New Tech High School, recently gave their PowerPoint presentation to the Burney-Hat Creek Collaborative Forest Group. The people in attendance are heavily involved in the Badger Project, the presentation topic. To the team’s surprise, the Shasta Forestry Challenge traveling trophy was presented to them. For a photo, click here.

The first Sequoia Forestry Challenge is also complete. The host facility and fieldtrip were great. The small group of 19 students was able to “go with the flow”, and we added a fieldtrip stop to watch a 100 foot plus hazard tree get felled in a campground. We also had the privilege of event guests who are top officials at CalFire, who came to observe and volunteer.

The El Dorado Forestry Challenge just wrapped up last Saturday, with 53 students from 8 schools in attendance. In addition to the regular activities, including a great fieldtrip, we were able to enjoy Leoni Meadows’ zip line, train, and a bonfire. The winning team from Ponderosa High School made a 4 minute video that can be viewed by clicking here.

I look forward to wrapping up 2012 with a great event in Santa Cruz. It will be the largest of 2012 events. When asked which event is my favorite, it’s like being asked which of my children is my favorite. They are all great and unique, and each one is special.

October 4, 2012 – The 2012 Shasta Forestry Challenge is history! Nineteen teams with a total of 67 students from 11 schools competed in technical forestry skills and mastery of the current topic of the year, which was the newly proposed Badger Project in the Hat Creek Ranger District of the Lassen National Forest.

The teams created 15 minute PowerPoint presentations to offer their opinions on the stated Project objectives. The students had some well thought out ideas that were often “outside the box”, and came up with some incredible presentations, considering the 6 1/2 hours they had to prepare them.

Anderson New Technology High School was dominant, taking First, Third, and Fifth Places. Enterprise and Nevada Union High Schools rounded out the top 5, taking second and fourth, respectively.

For a photo of the winning team, go to the “About Us” tab, hover and click over Winners – Teams. To see all event photos, go the Forestry Challenge page on Facebook. To see the Problem Solving Question, click here.

The pacing contest was won by Lake Almanor Christian School (LACS), with a chain length of 65’9″. LACS is the first private school to participate in any Forestry Challenge, while Bandon High School from Bandon, Oregon was the first out of state school to attend.

A hearty THANK YOU goes out to the 38 volunteers who gave their time and expertise to make the 2012 Shasta Forestry Challenge a success. It wouldn’t happen without them. Now, onward to the Sequoia Forestry Challenge!

September 17, 2012 – This doesn’t happen very often, but I am at somewhat of a loss for a theme (but never for words) for this post. So, in random fashion, here are some stray thoughts:

I met the team from Enterprise High School while I was up in Shasta County last week. They are a fast learning group with personality to spare. (I’m not mentioning names, Anthony.) I also dropped in at Anderson New Tech and saw Zach, Katie, and Dallas (not to mention Mrs. Germano), all returning for their third year. I am always amazed at the atmosphere at a New Tech School. It looks like corporate America, and everyone is engaged. Quite impressive.

I placed an order for 460 t-shirts today, based on my best estimate of 260 students, 47 teachers, 100 volunteers, and 53 sponsors. I am truly humbled.

Nancy Frisk e-mailed to let me know she was planning to catch a flight from Turkey, but it was cancelled. We’re hoping for another flight to come up soon.

It may appear that I am focusing all of my energy on Shasta, but plenty is happening elsewhere. We may get some schools from LA at the Sequoia, and from Santa Clara County at Santa Cruz. I’m still in recruiting mode, and it’s not too late to sign up.

Lastly, I’m creating an intro slide show for our opening assemblies with the help of my 16 year old son Samuel. It’s gonna be way cool.

September 8, 2012 – I’ve been asking the teachers lately “How are logistical and travel preparations going?” I know there is a lot to do to mobilize a bunch of students and jump through all of the hoops necessary to make a Forestry Challenge road trip happen. Similarly, I would like to share a few stories with you from CFC alumni who are also making travel plans:

From Nancy Frisk (CFC 2005, 2006, and 2007), now living in Turkey with her husband who is stationed there: “Military rotator flights to domestic bases are free, and about every month one comes up to a base in CA. Although these flights are unpredictable at best, it is my hope that one will come up that will allow me to volunteer for the events. I will be checking the flights regularly and, with some luck, I hope to find one.”

From Stephen Bradish (CFC 2003 and 2004), recently out of the Navy: “Count me in. As of right now I can make it to all of them. I’ll be happy to be a general assistant like in previous years. If you need it done, I’ll do my best to get it done.”

From John Calvert, former teacher of Matthew Ureno (CFC 2008, 2009, and 2010): “I have been in contact with a very enthusiastic Mathew Ureno. He is in the process of signing up as a volunteer with the school district so we will be able to bring him up with us.”

And finally, I got a call yesterday from Amanda Platt (CFC 2004 and 2005), who got her degree in Environmental Science from Humboldt and is just starting her career. She will be on staff at El Dorado Forestry Challenge.

I could say more, but these amazing young people say it all.

September 2, 2012 – Bolting upright from a prone to sitting position, I must have looked like one of those corpses in a casket from some classic horror movie. But none of the family was awake to see me in that hotel room at the Circus Circus in Reno yesterday. But I had good reason to wake in a jolt: My worst Forestry Challenge nightmare had just played itself out AGAIN, this time in more spectacular fashion than ever. You see, in my dream, all of us are getting ready to start the “Welcome to the Forestry Challenge” assembly for the first event this year. The scene looked like a cross between the Republican National Convention, which I had glimpsed on TV earlier that evening, and a circus act I had also seen a few hours prior. Thousands of (well it seemed that way) eager students and teachers were gathered in their stadium style seats, excited for the assembly to begin. What they didn’t know is that I had just realized I had no test written, no current issue prepared, and no volunteers lined up for the next three days!

As I hastily (but with a smile on my face) collected the Biltmore sticks some dozen students were using for their show-stopping dance number on stage, I searched desperately for an understanding soul to share this secret with. The only person on the scene I could confide in was my Mom, who is more honest with her opinions of me than Simon on American Idol. I didn’t have to say a word – by the look on her face I could tell that she knew. As my brain scrambled to think of a way to explain to all of you how we will be trying a bold, new, free-form kind of field test, I woke up.

While this nightmare plays in my head every year (although never as vividly as this playback), I realize it is T minus 3 1/2 weeks to the start date of the first event of the year. This episode has me motivated to keep my nose to the grind stone. So, if you wonder why I’m performing a show-stopping dance number when I should be handing out the field test, you’ll know why.

August 23, 2012 – I received a letter in the mail the other day I want to share. It all started at the Forest Landowners of California annual meeting in May, when the California Forestry Challenge donated some bluebird houses for the raffle. Julie and Peter Parker, who own forest properties here as well as in Vermont, were very disappointed not to win a birdhouse. I had one extra that I sent to them in Vermont, and here is what Julie said about it:

“We are absolutely thrilled, because we adore bluebirds and have 11 boxes all over our meadows and fields – but never enough! For years we watched pairs explore our boxes and usually move on, but for the last 4 years we have had success.”

“Each year the male comes and gets excited over our newest box. But if he makes the mistake of showing too much enthusiasm, the female, who makes the final choice, departs, leaving the male bewildered and deflated, following her to another location. I predict this box will be the new excitement next spring when the male comes.”

To see the box in its new home, click here.

August 2, 2012 – “Make your dreams come true.” That sentiment is now permanently recorded next to my name in the logbook at the top of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States, at 14,505 feet. Our group of 5 set out last week on an ambitious yet feasible 5 day, 50 mile backpack trip that culminated with our trek to the top of the mountain. Lasting impressions include not only the incredible sense of accomplishment for setting out a goal and then achieving it, but the immenseness and wonder of our state’s landscape.

And with that feather now in my cap, I turn my attention back to the imminent start of the school year, and planning for the four Forestry Challenge events coming up in less than 2 months. I am currently at Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest for the summer meeting of the Society of American Foresters. I am also working to finalize the fieldtrip content and testing stations for the first ever Sequoia Forestry Challenge. Space is still available at this event, and it will be a good one to attend.

I’ll be back in the office next week, and will make scholarship awards to participating schools very soon. Thanks to all of you who pre-registered. Financial assistance is on the way.

July 20, 2012 – “Work hard, play hard”. It’s a nice sentiment, and one that I’m trying to live by for the next week or so. This week I am working hard, and next week I fully intend to play hard. I had an awesome and productive visit to Shasta County, meeting and touring the forest with this year’s Rock Star (i.e., fieldtrip leader) for the Shasta Forestry Challenge. Without giving too much away up front, I can tell you that we will be involved with the planning stage of a large and significant forest health project that is part of a greater effort called the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program. More complete information will be posted on the website soon.

The “play hard” part comes next week with the culminating backpacking trip of the summer. Call us crazy, but our group of 6 is going to attempt a 50 mile hike in 5 days, including peaking Mt. Whitney. Freshly aware of what can go wrong in the wilderness (see previous Weekly Update), we will be careful not to put ourselves in a dangerous position, but will give it all we’ve got to be successful.

So, until next time, be safe and, whether you are working or playing, do it with passion and energy.

July 4, 2012 – I hope everyone is enjoying a fun and safe Fourth of July holiday. There are no fireworks allowed in El Dorado County, and with good reason. It only takes one mistake to ignite a devastating wildfire, and I must admit that am a little on edge, here at my cabin in the forest.

As Americans, we can be thankful for so many things, including the value our society places on each and every human life. That notion was made very clear last week, as our backpacking group had the need to call Search and Rescue when my daughter and two other teen girls did not return from a “stroll” they took from our base camp.

I knew that pressing the “panic” button would call about 30 people off their couches and set them into motion, searching on foot and by helicopter. The girls left camp at 2 p.m., we sent a runner out of the wilderness at 5:30, and the report was made at 7 p.m. One of four teams on foot located the girls at midnight, uninjured but suffering from exposure to both sun and mosquitoes.

Lesson learned: The forest is a beautiful and productive place, but also potentially dangerous. Have a plan anytime you go out, and be prepared.

June 19, 2012 – As I sit here in the South Lake Tahoe library while my daughter volunteers here, I am distracted by the view of Lake Tahoe out the window. The fir and pine trees in the foreground, the sparkling waters of the Lake behind them, and the high peaks of the north shore in the distance, are truly a breathtaking sight.

I am lucky enough to be able to work from home and, in the summertime, “home” is my cabin near Echo Summit on Highway 50. I balance work with daily hikes and socializing with the network of people (and our dogs!) in the neighborhood. We all benefit from time off, and for me it helps me be more creative with the Forestry Challenge. Some of my best ideas pop into my head while alone in the forest on a hike or bike ride.

I hope all of you are getting “out there” this summer. The forest is such an important and life-filled place. It is where so many of our renewable resources like wood products, water, and clean air come from. I’m convinced that the forest can renew our minds and spirits as well.

June 12, 2012 – Well, it seems that school is out for nearly everyone, and I’d like to welcome these most recent schools to the pre registered list: Argonaut, Delta, Lincoln, and Trinity. The El Dorado and Santa Cruz events are near capacity, Shasta has room for 3 or 4 more schools, and the new Sequoia event is wide open, only about one third full. I have great news for schools that have already requested financial assistance, as well as schools yet to register: The Foundation for Youth Investment is our newest sponsor, with a sizable donation – thanks so much!

The end of this month marks the 5 year anniversary of the Angora Fire. On Monday, June 25th, Senator Ted Gaines will host a forum on the fire, what’s been done, and what still needs to be done. Click here to link to the details.

Lastly, I was volunteering last week at Sierra Pines Camp, near my cabin, and when we got on the subject of forestry, a young volunteer spoke up and said she had been to a forestry event where she learned to measure trees, among other things. Turns out she is 2006 participant Tamara Cooke from Shenandoah High School. Small world!

May 30, 2012 – Time feels like it is on fast forward as we charge down the homestretch of the end of the school year. I had a great visit to Santa Cruz County last week to attend San Lorenzo Valley High School’s Science Symposium and Soquel High Schools’ FFA Banquet. Both were quite impressive, showcasing the students’ intellectual talent and hard work. Click here for a photo of Soquel HS students and 2011 Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge participants Nichole Richter, Alex Shearer, and Isa Elizondo.

Pre registration forms continue to arrive, with over 25 schools and about 250 students officially signed up and several more expected, including Bandon High School in Bandon, Oregon, making Forestry Challenge history as the first participating school from out of state. Thanks also to these schools for pre registering since the last Weekly Update: Greenville, Las Plumas, Menlo-Atherton, Monache, Ponderosa (El Dorado County), Redwood, and Woodside.

Many schools are requesting financial assistance, and I’ll have a good idea in about a week of how much I can grant to each school based on current sponsors. Then, I’ll continue to work this summer to add sponsors to further assist. I am pleased to let you know that The Home Depot and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy are on board as sponsors again this year.

May 15, 2012 – Pinch me, please… no wait, don’t! I thought I was dreaming last week when I spent time in Plumas County in the Lake Almanor and Indian Valley area at the Forest Landowners of California Annual Meeting. On Thursday the members boarded a tour bus and visited several sites burned by the Moonlight Fire of 2007. While those sites weren’t the most scenic of the day, they did showcase the diligent work going on to rehabilitate once forested areas damaged by the 65,000 acre fire.

The most scenic part of my time there was traveling through Indian Valley, home of Forestry Challenge participants from Greenville High School, a drive to the east side of Lake Almanor to visit (and hopefully recruit) Lake Almanor Christian School, and two brisk walks on the Lake Almanor Recreation Trail on the Lake’s west shore.

In addition to hoping to add Lake Almanor Christian School and Chester High School to the 2012 participant list, I would like to recognize the following schools that have pre registered in the last week: Antelope, Cordova, Elk Grove, Grant, Marysville, Mountain Oaks Charter, and Rosemont. If you haven’t already, be sure to complete the form by the 31st, so you are eligible for registration and sub pay stipends.

May 7, 2012 – Late last week I closed my eyes, tried not to flinch, and pressed the “Send” button. In a flash, over 150 teachers and administrators received a message from me with pre-registration information for the four fall Forestry Challenge events. I closely monitored my inbox over the next 24 hours, happy to receive completed forms from 12 schools.

Only with great deliberation and care do I send out mass e-mail. I know how busy teachers are, so when I send an e-mail, I want it to count. This particular e-mail was worthy of sending for several reasons. First, completing a pre-registration form assures each school a place at the event of their choice. Second, first priority for the $19,000 in registration fee and sub pay stipends will go to pre-registered schools. Lastly, knowing how many schools and students plan to be at each event helps me recruit and plan better.

A huge THANK YOU to the schools who are already pre- registered: Anderson New Tech, Colfax, Foresthill, Franklin, Napa New Tech, Nevada Union, Palmdale, Ponderosa (Santa Cruz County), Rio Linda, Sacramento New Tech, San Lorenzo Valley, and Soquel. For those of you who haven’t, I ask you to complete the pre-registration form, linked on this page, and send it to me by May 31st.

April 30, 2012 – Tomorrow is May Day. My one minute of Wikipedia research tells me that it is a holiday dating back to pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. Today’s more secular version of May Day is best known for its tradition of dancing the maypole dance.

I recently had good reason to make up my own version of the maypole dance, as I was rewarded with one of the most beautiful spring landscapes recently, a trip to the board meeting of the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority last Friday. Not only were the brilliant green hills and blue sky and water on the way to their headquarters at Pardee Reservoir a visual treat, the meeting was a treat as well. The board listened attentively to my presentation, and I was so happy to be able to spread awareness of the Forestry Challenge to this new audience. I am hopeful that the UMRWA will become a new and lasting partner.

This website is undergoing some updates in content, and is nearing completion for the fall events. My self-imposed deadline for all content to be in place is August 1st, but it will soon be 90% complete.

April 22, 2012 – I am just putting the finishing touches on my display that I will be taking to the California FFA (Future Farmers of America) state convention in Fresno tomorrow. I am so excited about the opportunity to meet students and teachers from schools that have not been to the Forestry Challenge, as well as seeing people from the 17 schools that have participated over the last 9 years.

Even better, as I type, Katie Alling at Nevada Union HS has offered a few of her students to help me at my booth. There’s no better ambassador for the Challenge than past participants.

And lastly, some really great news that I am so happy to share with you: I received word from the Mary A. Crocker Trust that they have awarded my request for sponsorship! As the Executive Director of the Trust put it in her e-mail to me, “$5000.00 will be enthusiastically coming your way from the Mary A. Crocker Trust…congratulations!” A large portion of the funding will help offset registration fees, substitute teacher costs, and transportation expenses for schools from the Bay Area to attend any Forestry Challenge event, as the Bay Area is their area of interest.

Life is good!

April 4, 2012 – For many of you, this week or next is Spring Break. My kids’ break is this week, and I have spent some quality time with them. Being teenagers, they have developed a sense of their parents and how we compare with the world outside the family unit. I listened yesterday evening as my 16 year old son described me, as compared to his friends’ moms, as “hippie-ish, with boring (natural) foods in the refrigerator, and generally out to save the Earth.”

He was not, by the way, issuing a compliment, but I reacted as though it was one. If my use of cloth grocery bags and cloth napkins does not impress him, too bad. Not happy cruising through town in a 12 year old car with over 316,000 miles on it? I’d rather keep fixing and driving the old one and not spend the money or resources on a new one. Tired of me nagging him over putting every last scrap of recyclable material in the recycle bin? That’s how we generate only one small can of garbage in a four person household each week. Am I out to “save the Earth”? You betcha!

I’m not advocating mandates in our society to force us to live minimalistic lifestyles. But I do hope that I and likeminded individuals can demonstrate that it makes sense to do the little things to conserve resources while not impacting our lifestyles in any significant way. Additionally, I think we should manage our forests in a way that maximizes their sustainability while reducing global impacts in places where we have no control.

This earth lover wishes you an early happy Earth Day.

March 21, 2012 – I sit here in my office with a stack of business cards of dozens of people I have met over the past few months, people who are interested in the Forestry Challenge, either as volunteers, sponsors, or both. Meeting season is wrapping up, and I am overwhelmed at the interest I am getting in the program. I will do my best to contact each and every one of you, and look forward to your participation in the fall.

As reported in my last blog, the students from Franklin High School in Elk Grove made an outstanding presentation at the California Licensed Forester’s Association meeting week before last. Thanks goes out to their teacher, Emily Hudson, their principal, Michael Reed, and the two parents who came to watch. For a photo of the team, click here.

Lastly, I am anxiously anticipating the arrival home of my good friend and Forestry Challenge alumni Stephen Bradish, a member of the winning team from Rio Vista High School in 2004. He has served in the US Navy for the last five plus years, and is due to be discharged in the next 4 to 6 weeks. Not only do I miss his phone calls and e-mails, which he has had no access to for the last 18 months, Stephen is looking forward to helping at one or more events this fall. Thank you, Stephen, for your service to our country, and I can’t wait to have you back home.

March 8, 2012 – Yesterday was a great day. The winning team of the 2011 El Dorado Forestry Challenge, from Ponderosa High School, gave an outstanding presentation to the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. They gave some background information on the Challenge, but spent the majority of their time giving the presentation they created for the event last fall.

One member of the audience e-mailed me with this comment: “I was blown away by the articulate, professional presentation made by the Ponderosa High School students yesterday at the Board of Forestry. They were fantastic. I thought their Leoni Meadows plan was incredibly well planned and thought out.” The students received Apprentice Forester certificates from the Board. To see a photo, click here. The students, from left to right, are Skye Jerpbak, Sam Kennedy, Anna Esling, and Dylan Brownell.

Tomorrow the team from Franklin High School will make their presentation to the California Licensed Forester’s Association at their Annual Meeting. I am so proud of all of these amazing students. They are the best ambassadors the Forestry Challenge could ever have.

February 22, 2012 – I can say with confidence that the students from Anderson New Technology High School and Trinity High School made a great impression at the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference, February 8 to 11 in Redding.

About a dozen students attended meal functions, toured the equipment show, and helped out at the Education Banquet and Auction. I was so proud to introduce them to several Forestry Challenge sponsors, and they spoke eloquently in front of a crowd of hundreds on more than one occasion. The auction was a great success, and the portion that the Forestry Challenge will receive will help the program significantly this year. Thanks to all of the generous supporters who purchased auction items and/or made direct donations.

On a different note, I have just finished tallying the evaluation responses from last year’s events, and have received some high praise, as well as some suggestions for improvement. The evaluation summaries are posted on the “events” pages. Based on your feedback, I will come up with a list of suggestions for next year, and ask for your comments. Please stay tuned…

February 8, 2012 – As I mentioned in my last update, I am on the road a lot lately. Last week I had the opportunity to travel back to Santa Cruz to participate in San Lorenzo Valley High School’s Science Night. Teacher Jane Orbuch organized a fabulous evening of science career “speed dating”. Ninth and tenth grade students rotated every few minutes to a different natural resource professional and learned about their career. Upper classmen also assumed the role of “professionals”, sharing their environmental monitoring projects with their younger peers. It is a great idea and Jane’s hard work made it a huge success.

While there I was able to do some recruiting visits for the 2012 Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge, November 7 to 10. I would like to send a special shout out to the staff at Pajaro Valley High School as well as the science resource team at the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

I’m on the road again this evening to the Logging Conference in Redding. I can’t wait to spend time with the great kids from Anderson New Tech and Trinity High Schools, where we’ll have the opportunity to personally thank many of the Forestry Challenge sponsors.

January 25, 2012 – For the animals out on the forest, it will soon be mating season. I, however, am just beginning “meeting season”. This is the time of the year when the people who work in the woods can’t get to the woods because of snow and weather, so they use this time to have their annual meetings.

I’ve already been to the Associated California Loggers meeting, and soon I’ll be going to the annual meetings of the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference, the California Forestry Association, the California Licensed Foresters Association, and the Redwood Region Logging Conference. The exciting part about these meetings is that I will be bringing students who have participated in the Forestry Challenge with me. They will be able to meet the people who support them through corporate sponsorships.

In addition to current high school students, I have just confirmed that Ryan Wimmer, 4-year Challenge participant and a sophomore majoring in forestry at Humboldt State University, will come to the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference. Thanks to W.M. Beaty and Associates, and Trinity River Lumber Company, several students will be attending ticketed events at the Logging Conference. Our sponsors make all the difference.

January 12, 2012 – Happy New Year! Everyone seems to be jumping in to 2012 with both feet. With the lack of precipitation, many forest managers and loggers have not slowed down. I am still seeing log trucks rolling down the highway in El Dorado County.

Speaking of loggers, I am writing this update while attending the annual meeting of the Associated California Loggers (ACL). Did you know there is a ProLogger certification that requires 20 hours of continuing education each year? Topics covered include forest practice law, accounting and financial management, and first aid/CPR. I have thoroughly enjoyed interacting with this fun yet hard-working group of people, and am pleased to announce that ACL will again sponsor the Forestry Challenge program in 2012.

In addition to support from ACL, I have received and hope to continue to receive support from many individual logging companies, including C.T.L. Forest Management, John Wheeler Logging, Headrick Logging, and DL Stoy Logging. To learn more about the ProLogger certification, check out ACL’s website at

December 17, 2011 – This will probably be the last update for 2011. At this time of the year, we are all compelled to look back and think about what has happened during the past 12 months. Here are a few personal highlights:

The successful completion of three full length events at three geographically and ecologically diverse locations; Recognition of the program and my dedication to it by way of receiving the Francis H. Raymond Award and a proclamation from the California State Senate; Fundraising to cover my program costs, a small but appreciated stipend for myself, and over $4,000 in registration fee waivers for deserving students and teachers; The award of a $55,000 grant for Leoni Meadows for an important fuels reduction project. (Click here to see the progress being made as of a field visit last week.)

But perhaps the biggest highlight for me was the personal relationships that I began with new participants and grew with repeat participants. Each and every one of you involved with the Forestry Challenge is so very important to me. I hope that your association with the program has been as rewarding to you as it has been for me. Together we can all learn about the forest, and move toward better stewardship of this precious resource that can sustain and enrich our lives.

December 4, 2011 – It’s Sunday morning, and I have been busy for the last 2 hours writing Thank You notes to the many people who helped make the Forestry Challenge events a success this year. Some people made a donation, either from their own wallets or from their business, some people came out to volunteer at an event, and some loaned equipment like projectors. I estimate that I will send 100 notes out, and I have already spent several hours on this, personalizing each one.

Although it is a daunting task, I have been enjoying it. With each note I am thankful, as each contribution is made of free will. I strive to always be humble and realize that without this help, the events wouldn’t happen. I also appreciate those of you who tell me you read these updates – students, colleagues, and friends.

I will be sending composite photos to the major sponsors, made from the school photos taken at the events, to hang on their office wall. The photos remind the sponsors just who is benefitting from the Forestry Challenge experience. Happy Thanksgiving, and a joyous holiday season to all of you!

November 21, 2011 – Knock knock….. anyone home? If you follow this blog, you’ve no doubt been wondering where I have been. I last posted on the opening day of the Santa Cruz event. All went well there, with Trinity High School from Weaverville taking home the grand prize. Vista del Lago from Folsom placed second, also winning the Pacing Contest, and one of the local teams from San Lorenzo Valley High School won third.

After the third and final event, I basically collapsed! I am now trying to get back on my feet and finish up the details to end the year. Alongside end-of-the-year activities such as presenting traveling trophies to winning teams, I am setting dates for next year, balancing the books, and noting grant request deadlines.

Over the next few weeks I hope to have the 2012 dates finalized. I will announce them when they are set. My goal is to avoid conflicts like the SAT’s, and hit the optimal window between not-too-soon in the school year and not-too-late for good weather. There is a lot more to report, and in future updates I’ll talk more about some of the great things happening now and what’s in store for 2012.

October 26, 2011 – It’s been awhile since my last update, but I think I have a good excuse. The Shasta event was two weeks ago, and the Santa Cruz event starts today. Congratulations to Elk Grove High School for winning First Place at the 2011 Shasta Forestry Challenge! Franklin and Anderson New Technology were second and third, with a total of seven schools there.

The newspaper from Redding, the Record Searchlight, ran an article about their local team, Anderson New Tech, in the Sunday paper. I sent releases to the papers of the communities with participating high schools. Please let me know if any other articles run.

The weather forecast for Santa Cruz is perfect, with no chance of rain and highs in the 70’s. Six schools are making the trip to the event, even from as far away as Weaverville in Trinity County. Again, I am humbled by the great teachers, students, and volunteers that travel from far and wide to participate. I’ll post results from Santa Cruz soon, and for photos of El Dorado and Shasta, go to the “Forestry Challenge” Facebook page.

October 6, 2011 – As I sit here with the rain falling, I am so thankful that the weather cooperated last week at the El Dorado Forestry Challenge. Last week at this time we were out piling vegetation as part of Leoni’s fuels management grant. In two hours we prepared one acre for pile burning this winter. Good job everyone!

Ponderosa High School’s AP Environmental Science team took top honors, with a total score of 222 out of 250. Ponderosa’s FFA teams were in close pursuit, taking second and third place. Sacramento New Technology High School and Rio Linda High School had strong showings, rounding out the eight teams that participated. In addition to the perpetual trophy for the El Dorado event, I will start a new trophy for the team with the highest score for all events. So, 222 is the number to beat!

The Shasta Forestry Challenge will be in full swing a week from today. Good luck to the seven schools getting ready. Santa Cruz is just around the corner, and registration on that event is still open. It was great to see old friends and new faces at El Dorado, and I look forward to more of that next week. Hope for sun!

September 25, 2011 – We are only a few days away from the first Forestry Challenge event on the calendar. The El Dorado event starts Wednesday, with the other two each following two weeks later. Registration is still open for the Shasta and Santa Cruz events. Looking at the numbers, I am certain we will break a record for attendance. And with the various dates and locations to choose from, I feel confident that the numbers will continue to increase in years to come.

Students attending the El Dorado event this week will get to take a night hike with wildlife biologist Kevin Roberts, always a fun experience. They will also get to soar on Leoni Meadows’ brand new zip line, and take a sightseeing tour of the meadow and forest on the train.

I will be out of cell phone and internet range after about noon on Wednesday, but if you need anything, leave a message and I’ll get back to you next weekend.

Good luck to the schools on their way to Leoni!

September 15, 2011 – Yesterday was a very special day. I attended a meeting of the California Board of Forestry, where I was presented with the Francis H. Raymond Award. The award is given to the individual, organization, agency or company that has contributed the most to the management and increased awareness of California’s forested resources over the past five years.

Francis H. Raymond was a former State Forester and leading advocate of the passage of Assembly Bill 469 in 1972, which resulted in the Professional Foresters Licensing Law. He helped bring legitimacy to the profession in California, just as the receipt of this award helps bring legitimacy to the California Forestry Challenge. To read the speech I made to the Board, click here.

Here’s another piece of good news: An article about the Challenge in the magazine Timber West hit the mailboxes today. The article features Challenge alumni Alicia Jones and Matthew Ureno, who both are pursuing careers in forestry. I even got a call from a teacher in Bandon, Oregon. She is hoping to recruit students to attend the Shasta event.

September 10, 2011 – I’m sitting here in the lobby at Redwood Christian Park, ready to go out and figure out where the field test stations will be. It is a beautiful day here, sunny and 75 degrees. One of the best parts of this job is visiting all of the different and beautiful forests to plan the events. I was at Lassen Pines earlier this week, and completed the fieldwork there.

Not only are the forests beautiful, but the facilities have some fun stuff to do as well. Leoni Meadows has a small gauge railroad, zip line, and climbing wall. Lassen Pines has a go cart track with gas powered vehicles, and Redwood Christian Park has a large heated pool. We will get to have fun with all of these amenities during free time on Thursday afternoon, and will maybe even get to have a bonfire at each site on Friday evening.

Teachers, I am offering scholarships to any school that needs some extra support, up to $500. Let me know what your needs are. No school has ever been turned away from the Forestry

Challenge because they couldn’t afford to participate. Even in hard times, our sponsors have been generous, and I am forever thankful for their support.

September 2, 2011 – What a whirlwind of activity as I head into the final month before the Forestry Challenge events begin. About 16 schools pre-registered, and I will soon draw for the winner of the $100 registration fee discount. I was at Leoni Meadows today setting up the fieldtrip, and will travel to the Shasta and Santa Cruz event sites in the next week to do fieldwork there.

As if planning three events isn’t enough, I just returned from the far south Sierra to scout out a site for a fourth event. In 2012 or 2013 this new event will premiere. The featured attraction is Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest, home to numerous old growth giant sequoia and mixed conifer stands full of second growth sequoia. Forest Manager Jim Kral is a Forestry Challenge veteran from his days as a consulting forester in the El Dorado County area. A facility for us to stay and a lumber mill are both close by.

It’s not too late to send in those pre-registration forms. I’ll be doing the last round of school recruiting next week, then turning my focus to test writing and current issue planning.

August 25, 2011 – I can now officially announce that The Home Depot is a sponsor of the 2011 Forestry Challenge! I am pleased and grateful for their generous contribution. I have one more large request I’m waiting to hear about from Waste Management. If that one comes through, I will be able to offer stipends to cover some registration fees, substitute pay, and transportation costs.

I am resorting to cheesy gimmicks and offering a pre-registration contest. If you pre register by August 31, your school will be entered into a drawing, the winner of which will receive $100 off their registration fees. So far nearly 20 schools have pre registered. Thanks! The information helps me plan the events.

Lastly, the website now has an online payment option so that parents can register their child online. I hope this makes the registration process more convenient. Registration deadlines are 12 days prior to the beginning of each event. I’ll send out reminders as the deadlines approach.

August 14, 2011 – It seems like everyone’s “back in the saddle”, so to speak. Most schools have or will start by this week, and I am home from my summer adventures. My son Samuel and I completed the 50 mile Boy Scout backpack trip. Click here to see my favorite photo of our destination lake, at 11,000 feet, where we spent three nights.

I am seeing activity from Forestry Challenge participants as they begin preparing for the upcoming events. Anderson New Tech High School created a Facebook group page for their team, which allows them to effectively communicate. What a great idea! Also, Ponderosa High School had a car wash today to raise funds in part for Forestry Challenge registration fees. Photos of them in action can be found on the Forestry Challenge Facebook page.

And lastly, Challenge alumni Matthew Ureno and Meagan Krause start classes tomorrow at Reedley College with majors in Forestry. Matthew reports he had arrived on campus to find there is no dorm room ready for him! I reminded him that it is just one small bump in the road, a small obstacle for what will hopefully be a successful year.

July 21, 2011 – Summer is finally in full swing in the mountains. I am leaving today on a 50 mile, 10 day backpacking trip with my son and his Boy Scout troop. We will be starting from Florence Lake in the south Sierra and packing east to the French Creek and Piute Creek canyons. I will be “out of the loop” until July 30.

Although I have taken several pack trips each year for many years, this trip is longer in distance and time than any I have been on. The conveniences of normal daily life will be far away, as I pump water through a filter to make it drinkable, cook over a stove that folds up into the size of a deck of cards, and sleep on a thin mattress on the ground.

It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I look forward to sharing it with you when I return.

July 5, 2011 – I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend. Summer has finally arrived up here in the mountains, but not before a snowfall that dusted the ground on Wednesday morning (click here for photo). And the old snow is not even gone…

I made a quick trip to Shasta County this week, to do some fieldwork at Lassen Pines Camp, and also to make a presentation for the Shasta County Resource Advisory Committee. I am pleased to say that they will be supporting the Forestry Challenge, and part of that support will be in the form of scholarships to schools attending the Shasta event. Stay tuned for more information on scholarships to schools.

I also would like to welcome back Sierra Pacific (Industries) Foundation as a sponsor this year. The fundraising phase is about complete, and I’ll soon turn my attention to setting up field tests, current issues, and recruiting. But things may not happen too quickly work-wise, now that summer is finally here. Hiking and biking in the mountains outside my door are working their way to the top of the priority list.

June 22, 2011 – I want to welcome another great sponsor back again this year, the Amador Resource Conservation District. A portion of their donation will support their local schools but, as stated by Board Chair Steve Cannon, “We also feel that helping schools from the city ultimately adds to the knowledge of forest management in a demographic that usually is the source of unfounded complaints about forest management.”

I also have some sad news to pass along. One of our most valued and dedicated volunteers, George Little, passed away Saturday evening after a noble fight with cancer. George always had a way of connecting with the Forestry Challenge participants, and not only served as a presentation judge, but often helped with field training and testing. George’s son, Robert Little, is a forester with CalFire, and CFC volunteer as well. Robert and I have always enjoyed working beside our dads at Challenge events over the years, and George will most certainly be missed by everyone who knew him. To see one of my favorite photos of George, showing a student how to use a wedge prism, click here.

June 14, 2011 – By now everyone should be out of school for the “summer”. I put that in quotes because I have moved to my cabin for the “summer”. Yesterday I had to laugh (or cry) as I shoveled snow from my deck so I could remove the snow shelter, pausing to waive at my neighbor as he rode by on his snowmobile! We’ll have snow on the ground here well into July.

I would like to welcome back repeat sponsor American AgCredit, and welcome a new sponsor, the March Foundation. Members of the Foundation heard me speak at the Forest Landowners of California meeting, and want to support the good forestry education that happens at Challenge events.

Lastly, I am putting the finishing touches on an application to the Shasta County Resource Advisory Committee for financial assistance for the Shasta Forestry Challenge. For one of their newsletters which describes what the RAC is all about, click here.

June 3, 2011 – I hope everyone is hanging in there as school wraps up for the year. I know that many of our Forestry Challenge participants have now become alumni, including Matthew Ureno and Meagan Krause of Palmdale High School, as they graduated last Friday. Both will be attending Reedley College in the fall, majoring in Forestry. Also, three-year CFC participant Alicia Jones is graduating from Cal Poly SLO in about a week with her degree in Forestry, and will be Alaska this summer working for the US Forest Service. Way to go, graduates!

I always like to give mention to new and returning sponsors. This week I am calling out Campbell Timberland Management. They are new sponsors in 2011, and it is great to have them on board. My website guy Dennis and I are updating the sponsors’ page, and are working to include sponsors’ logos as well. Check it out, but please know that it is a work in progress!

Lastly, I had a great conversation a few days ago with Bob Kingman at the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. We spoke about partnering the Forestry Challenge with their Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative. We’ll be providing more details soon, but in the meantime, check it out by clicking here.

May 23, 2011 – Well, I’m back from Santa Cruz County, and all went well, except that I forgot to bring my camera! I spent some time at Redwood Christian Park and visited nine high schools, as well as some key people in the county schools office. I was also able to present the perpetual trophy from the 2010 event to the winning team at Cypress Charter High School.

On the sponsor front, we have the California Forestry Association, Fruit Growers Supply Company, and Timothy M. Cary & Associates, Attorneys at Law, as returning sponsors.

This week I will be making the final push to remind teachers I would like to receive their pre-registration form by this Friday, May 27th. Thanks to the teachers from the following schools who have pre registered: Elk Grove, Franklin, Greenville, Sacramento New Technology, Soquel, and SOS. I know you have a lot on your plate, teachers, so I truly appreciate the few minutes you spend letting me know you plan to attend. Have a great week and a wonderful three day weekend!

May 16, 2011 – Once again, it is ROAD TRIP time! I always enjoy traveling the state to promote the Challenge, and here is what’s going on:

Last week I was a presenter in Humboldt County at the Forest Landowners of California Annual Meeting. FLC members are families that own forests from 10 to 2,500 acres and want to manage their forestlands as best as possible. I met a lot of nice people and learned some things too. I also got to take a hike with Ryan Wimmer, a four year CFC participant and Freshman at Humboldt State University.

Today I hit the road to Santa Cruz County. While there I will present the perpetual trophy to last year’s winning team from Cypress Charter High School. I will also visit returning and new high schools and spend time in the forest at Redwood Christian Park with the foresters from Big Creek and Redwood Empire.

Lastly, I am happy to report that Trinity River Lumber Company sent a generous check to renew sponsorship for 2011. After their mill in Weaverville burned down a few years ago, and considering the state of the lumber market, it is very humbling to receive their support. Thanks!

May 6, 2011 – I want to thank the teachers and volunteers who have sent replies to my mass e-mail. It is great to hear from all of you and know that you have a Forestry Challenge event on your calendar.

Now for some news: I’m a “bad news first” person, so I’ll start with that. We did not get the Stewardship Council grant. I’ll be speaking with someone from their staff soon to see where the proposal can be strengthened for submittal next year. I’m bummed about that because most of the funding would have been used for scholarships to offset school’s registration fees and substitute pay.

That said, now the good news: I have sent requests for sponsorships to about 25 companies and organizations. I am hopeful that many will be able to support the Challenge, even in these tough economic times. I’ll also be pursuing some foundation funding sources to see if I can’t find some scholarship money for teachers and students. No one has ever been turned away because they couldn’t afford to attend, and that will never change.

April 25, 2011 – I arrived home from Easter with the family to find that “the Bunny” had left the most wonderful envelope in my mailbox. It was a check from the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference with the sum total of donations made at their annual meeting benefit auction in February.

Many 2010 sponsors made repeat donations, and several new individuals and companies have joined the growing list. I would like to welcome Soper-Wheeler, Peterson Holding Company, Headrick Logging, John Wheeler Logging, and Jefferson Resources to the sponsor list, and thank Sierra Forest Products, W.M. Beaty and Associates, and C.T.L. Forest Management for their continued support.

Sponsors are vital to the success of the Forestry Challenge program, and to give you a better idea of who the sponsoring companies are, we have updated the “Sponsors” page with links to their websites for those who have them. You’re awesome!

April 19, 2011 – Welcome to the 2011 Forestry Challenge website! My “tech angel” Dennis and I put the final touches on the site Monday evening, and pushed the “upload” button. You will find updated 2011 event information, sponsors, and more profiles (under the “About Us” tab). The learning resources have also been modified, with final packet information ready by the beginning of August.

Please take a moment to peruse the pages. You may see familiar faces on the 2010 photo pages under the “gallery” tab, which you can share to Facebook. I encourage you to complete a pre-registration form (found on the “Events” pages), or simply visit the Forestry Challenge Facebook page and RSVP to an event.

My goal is to reach everyone I can by the end of May, and have pre-registration nearly complete, so I can most effectively use the summer to plan the fall events. If you see any glitches in the website, or have any questions or comments, please e-mail or call me. My contact info is on the website banner. Enjoy!

April 11, 2011 – I would like to tell you about a grant I applied for in early March that would provide scholarships to schools to help with Forestry Challenge registration fees, substitute pay, or forestry supplies for the classroom. The grant is funded through the Stewardship Council, which was formed as part of a PG&E settlement agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission. In addition to overseeing the conservation of watershed lands, their job includes the administration of the Youth Investment Program.

I applied for a Catalyst Grant, which is for relatively small non-profit organizations and is for requests under $15,000. The Stewardship Council’s service area almost perfectly matches the areas where Forestry Challenge participants come from, and the funds help provide outdoor opportunities for underserved youth.

It seems like a good fit, and when I called the Council last week, they said they would be announcing the winners at the end of the month. Let’s keep our fingers crossed or, better yet, knock on wood! For more information on the Stewardship Council’s Youth Investment Program, click here.

April 7, 2011 – Wow, this blog spot is becoming a monthly, not weekly update. But as we improve the website it will become easier to upload the update, so I’m sure it will soon become a weekly update once again.

There are three new sponsors I want to tell you about, but first, I have some other good news. The El Dorado County Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) has recommended funding the Leoni Meadows Fuels Reduction Project! Once it is approved by the National Forest Supervisor and paperwork is signed, the work can begin. Forestry Challenge participants will also be a part of the project, helping with some of the work that can’t be done by machines. I’ll keep you updated as the mechanical work begins.

Three of our new sponsors this year are Associated California Loggers, Mendocino Redwood Company, and Humboldt Redwood Company. Also on board from last year is C.T.L. Forest Management, whose low impact logging equipment is used almost exclusively in the Tahoe Basin. The sponsors’ websites will be added to the “sponsors” page soon, but in the meantime you can easily find them with Google.

March 9, 2011 – I am happy to report that a website overhaul is nearly complete. It will look and feel the same, but will be set up so I can more easily keep you updated. There will also be a link to the Facebook Forestry Challenge page. Please visit it and click “Like”, which will enable you to give me feedback as the year progresses.

I have chosen the site of the 2011 Shasta Forestry Challenge. It is Lassen Pines Retreat Center near Shingletown in eastern Shasta County. Photos are posted on the Facebook page. The good foresters at W.M. Beaty and Associates and Sierra Pacific Industries have already committed their expertise to make this a first rate event.

Finally, for those of you at the 2010 CFC, you will be interested to know that Leoni Meadows and the CFC have applied to the RAC (Resource Advisory Committee) for a fuels reduction project on the Leoni property. We gave a Powerpoint presentation that can be viewed at the bottom of “ El Dorado County Projects”. Wish us luck, as we hope to be selected!

February 13, 2011 – It has been three months since I have posted, but I’m now ready to get back on track. There is so much to say! I have decided that Redwood Christian Park in Boulder Creek will be the site for the Santa Cruz FC, Oct. 26-29, 2011. The California FC will again be at Leoni Meadows from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, and I will soon be naming the site and dates for the Shasta FC, formerly the Siskiyou FC. That event will be near Shingletown in eastern Shasta County in early to mid October.

Forestry Educators Incorporated is now a non-profit, 501c3 corporation, allowing me to fundraise for things like scholarships to offset sub pay and registration fees.

And lastly, repeat sponsors like the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference, and new ones like Associated California Loggers allow a revamp of the website. Check back in a few weeks, and you will see an updated format and 2011 information.

November 12, 2010 – Lots to report this week. First, I would like to congratulate and thank all of the participants of the 2010 Siskiyou Forestry Challenge, which ended Monday. Nevada Union took home the top honors, with Las Plumas winning second and third places. Argonaut, Orland, and Trinity High Schools were there also. Check Facebook (under “Forestry Challenge”) for all of the photos.

Back on the CFC front, I went to the field Wednesday with RPF Bob Broderick and Firesafe Council member Steve Hupner to further investigate and prepare an application to the El Dorado County Resource Advisory Committee. After meeting with the US Forest Service, we have decided to pursue funding for fuels treatment on private parcels on the north side of Caldor Road to tie in with the partially completed Last Chance Fuels Reduction Project. I’ll keep you posted as we turn in the application.

Lastly, I’ll be going to Santa Cruz next week to look for a location for the 2011 event there.

November 1, 2010 – I have tallied up the evaluation forms from the California Forestry Challenge, and here are some highlights:

When asked what part of the event was their favorite, 30 said it was the ropes course, 19 said the bonfire and wagon/train rides to and from it, and 14 said it was the field training and testing. Of course the ropes course won the most votes. I wish I could have done it – maybe next year.

Thanks to my amazing website designers, a.k.a. “Tech Angles”, all but a few said the website was easy to use, and liked having the resource packet online. There were a few suggestions on how to improve the website, and we’ll be taking a close look at those ideas in the next few months.

Lastly, I asked if the testing/presentation split should be 60/40 or 50/50. By more than a 2 to 1 margin, students said, “keep it the way it is!” Teachers were more evenly split, but the preference of the students will prevail. It’s your event, after all!

October 27, 2010 – There are some exciting developments to report concerning the Henry’s Prescribed Fire Project. The El Dorado County Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) is accepting applications for projects that improve the forest. Several RAC members have encouraged me to submit a proposal for fuels reduction work on Mr. Buckwalter’s property so I have decided to go ahead and pursue the application process.

I spoke to Mr. Buckwalter again late last week, and he is giving me permission to come up with a cost estimate for slashing, piling, and pile burning. With the generous help of a local logger, I will be able to come up with a realistic estimate. I also want to look at the cost to gather and haul the material to the biomass facility in Ione, which is now scheduled to be opening in May 2011.

I will be going to the Buckwalter property soon to have a look around, and talking to many people over the next few weeks to put together a proposal that I hope the RAC can’t turn down.

October 20, 2010 – I have finally recovered enough from the 2010 CFC to post the results. The final headcount was 107 students and 19 advisors from 15 schools in attendance. Congratulations go to the following teams: Franklin HS 1st and 3rd Places, Palmdale HS 2nd Place, Colfax HS 4th Place, and Elk Grove HS 5th Place.

The coveted “Board Foot” trophy also went to Franklin High School, with a pace of only 2 1/2 inches shy of the targeted 66 feet. Suzanna Johnson of Colfax High School was awarded the Tom Eustis Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence for her hard work in preparing her teams to attend.

Highlights of the 2010 CFC were the fieldtrip to the site of the proposed Henry’s Prescribed Fire Project, the ropes course, which included a zip line and “Leap of Faith”, and the train and wagon rides to the late night bonfire on the last night there.

I now turn my attention to the Siskiyou Forestry Challenge, November 6 – 8. In the meantime, look for a photo of your team in your local newspaper, and event photos on the “Forestry Challenge” Facebook page.

October 10, 2010 – Only two days now until we all load our cars and converge on Leoni Meadows for the 2010 CFC. The weather forecast is calling for sunny skies and highs in the upper 70’s. That’s great news, considering the last three years have involved rain at some point during the event.

Students, if I had to give you some advice as you look over the study materials it would be this: Don’t get bogged down in the details. If you understand the ideas behind each pamphlet, worksheet, or flyer, that’s good. I rarely ask for memorized facts. I’d rather you be able to apply ideas to situations to make decisions.

Now, I’ll give you some more advice I should take myself: Get your sleep and show up rested and ready to have a great experience. We’re going to have a great time and I know you will come away with a better understanding of some real life concepts that guide real people who make real decisions every day.

October 4, 2010 – Wow, the first ever Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge is now in the bag. Forty five students from 6 schools toured the Big Creek mill, visited forestlands both green and fire scorched, and took a field test. Cypress Charter School took top honors, with Pacific Collegiate coming in second and third. Congrats to all!

Now I must turn my attention to the California Forestry Challenge, starting in 9 short days. The field test is nearly complete, and I am going to be working hard to get the problem solving question finalized in the next few days. My spreadsheet now tells me that we’ll have 16 schools and 124 students competing, with a possible few more schools to be added, making it the biggest Challenge ever!

With Trinity River Lumber, American AgCredit, Fruit Growers Supply, and Mendocino Redwood Companies joining the sponsor list, everything is shaping up to be the biggest and best Challenge to date.

So, students, start turning your attention to the learning objectives and resource packet – the countdown is going fast. I’ll look forward to seeing you soon!

September 16, 2010 – Let’s talk about FUN! Yes, there’s lots of work to do at a Forestry Challenge, but there’s also some really fun things to look forward to.

At Santa Cruz, we’re touring a cool redwood lumber mill. The mill machinery takes second growth redwood and moves the logs like they were matchsticks, getting the most usable lumber out of each one. Likewise, at the Siskiyou Forestry Challenge, the ever popular veneer mill tour is back. In this mill, the logs are rolled on a spool and unroll like paper towels.

The California Forestry Challenge doesn’t involve a mill tour, but will have fun activities like a ropes course / climbing wall / giant swing / zip line one day, and a train ride and/or wagon ride in the dark to a bonfire where we’ll drink hot chocolate and roast marshmallows the next day.

So get ready to work at the Forestry Challenge, but know that you’ll be having some FUN too!

September 4, 2010 – I hope you are all enjoying the three day weekend in honor of those who labor tirelessly. When I think of Labor Day, the image of factory or field workers comes to mind first.

But I would like to re-direct my and your attention to the less than obvious “laborers” – the teachers who bring their students to Forestry Challenge events each year. Already they are preparing paperwork for permission to travel, submitting check requests for registration fees, and arranging for substitute teachers so they can be away from school. Then the real work of preparing students begins, teaching the resource packet materials, and in some cases arranging for foresters to come to campus to help students learn what they need to know to be successful.

I feel so honored and thankful that these professionals put their students’ interests so high on their list of priorities. Without them, the Forestry Challenge program wouldn’t exist. So, a hearty THANK YOU to all of you laboring teachers who make the Forestry Challenge events possible.

August 30, 2010 – I have two good news items to share with you this week.

First, I am proud to announce the Forestry Challenge’s newest sponsor, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC). The SNC is a state agency that initiates, encourages, and supports efforts that improve the environmental, economic and social well-being of the Sierra Nevada Region, its communities and the citizens of California. Their mission and the goals of the Forestry Challenge program make for a great partnership, and I thank them for their support.

Second, I am pleased to say that we are making huge strides toward getting all of the resource packet information on the website, along with event information like registration and release forms. We have also made some improvements on the About Us pages, so take a moment to look around the website. You might see a photo of yourself or someone you know.

August 22, 2010 – My head is swimming with the task I have been working on for the last few days. I am putting together the resource packets for all students and teachers that will participate in events this year.

The challenge is this: I want to get it posted so everyone can begin looking at the materials and start getting comfortable with what they are being asked to learn this year. But at the same time I want to make sure I don’t leave anything out, and also that I don’t put stuff in the packets that really doesn’t matter.

So my website manager and I sat down today and posted some of the materials. The remainder I will work on this week, and we will finish posting materials on Sunday. I hope this doesn’t inconvenience anyone, but at least you can get started looking at the basic information. Good luck, and don’t feel overwhelmed, like I am feeling about now!

August 15, 2010 – It’s still hot outside, but for many of you summer is already over. Schools in this area started LAST Monday! Teachers, as you get back to school, don’t forget to start the paperwork for the Challenge. Registration forms, rules, and flyers are now available.

There are two things I would like to share with you this week. First, the parent corporation of the Forestry Challenge, Forestry Educators Incorporated, will soon have a board meeting, most likely this week. The meetings are in August, November, February, and May. In an effort to keep the business of the corporation as transparent as possible, I will always mention upcoming meetings in this space. If you are interested in attending a meeting or receiving an agenda or minutes, please let me know.

Second, I am working to assemble resource packets for all events. I hope to have them online in about a week, along with learning objectives and release forms for each event.

July 13, 2010 – I hope everyone is enjoying summer as much as I am. Summer has finally arrived in the high Sierra, which is where I spend the month of July at my small but cozy cabin. While many of you are sweltering in the valley, it has yet to reach 80 degrees here!

As I type this update and look out the window, I see so many reminders of the bounty of the forest. Trees of all sizes and ages surround me. I see birds and squirrels that make their home in trees, and the firewood pile reminds me that, in the winter, wood is our only source of heat here. When backpacking, we hang our food from the branch of a large old tree or snag, and walk balanced on tree trunks suspended over creeks to cross them.

I hope all of you get the chance to enjoy the forest this summer. I’m trying to plod away at the computer on various tasks necessary to plan this fall’s events, but the forest constantly beckons, and it usually wins.

July 7, 2010 – Wow, I’m a little late getting this update posted. Like everyone else, I took a few days off. Hope you had a good 4th of July too.

However, I never stop thinking about the Forestry Challenge. This week in particular, I am thinking about the great country we live in and how we work together to solve complex problems, in our forests as well as in other areas.

At the main event, we will be tackling a complex situation involving OUR national forest and a project on it that not everyone fully agrees on at this time. How great is it that we, as American citizens, have the right to comment on forest plans, and that OUR government is required to listen to us and consider our suggestions?

And even on private forestlands, there is a set of rules based on laws made by our elected officials. Ultimately, we have the power to guide the direction of how all forests are managed, through our democratic process. How great is that?

June 13, 2010 – Last Tuesday I had a great day in the field at and near Leoni Meadows, the site of the 2010 California Forestry Challenge. The Forest Service has created the Henry’s Prescribed Fire Project, which will treat approximately 2,000 acres using hand and aerial applications and includes part of Leoni Meadows. I have identified the four stops for our fieldtrip on October 14.

The project is a great way to reduce fuels and protect the nearby communities of Grizzly Flats and Omo Ranch. However, the test plot that was burned about a year ago had higher than expected tree mortality. After looking at the heavy fuels in the area, I can see why the private landowners within the project area have cause for concern. I think you are going to enjoy learning about the project and the complexities of completing it successfully.

I’ll be posting the basic materials for the resource packets very soon, and then adding materials about the Henry’s burn and other Forestry Challenge locations by early August, so stay tuned.

June 6, 2010 – This past week has been one of those “more of the same” weeks, in a good way. Timothy M. Cary & Associates, Attorneys at Law, is supporting the Challenge for another year. Tim is a neighbor, friend, and has been a Challenge presentation judge for the past several years, and it is great to have his firm’s support once again. And, I am still waiting as patiently as possible for the Articles of Incorporation to be approved.

Once the Articles are in hand, my new corporation, Forestry Educators incorporated, can have its first board meeting. Three capable people have agreed to serve on the board: Bob Smart, retired US Forest Service Placerville Ranger, Rich Wade, District Manager for Sierra Pacific Industries, and Laura Raycraft, a local attorney. Thanks to all three of these talented and dedicated individuals for stepping up to help the Forestry Challenge continue to grow and be successful.

The latest participants count for all three 2010 events combined is now at 160 students from 24 schools!

May 23, 2010 – There are three things I want to share with you this week. First, I want to thank so many of you teachers that sent in pre-registration numbers for the California Forestry Challenge. So far 66 students from 9 schools are on my list, and I still expect to hear back from many more teachers in the next week.

Secondly, in a surprise visit to Trinity High School, SPI forester Tom Walz presented the Siskiyou Forestry Challenge perpetual trophy to the unsuspecting 2009 champion team at their end-of-the-year awards assembly. I wish I could have been there to see it.

Lastly, I had a great meeting with Teresa Riesenhuber, the (Forest Service) Fuels Officer for the Placerville Ranger District. She told me about the Henry’s Prescribed Fire Project, which is an ongoing effort to reduce fuels in the Leoni Meadows area. Some of the project has already been burned, but there was higher than expected tree mortality and, as a result, some of the cooperating adjacent landowners have pulled out. The plot thickens….

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