Growing the Next Generation of Conservationists.
Clutching the handle, arms tight, with fingers shaking close to the throttle, a red-haired young woman moved the saw chain near the tree. She leaned in, balanced her petite stature, exhaled, and then pulled the trigger for the first time.
In 2014, this woman, along with 24 classmates, participated in a chainsaw lab through the Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) Natural Resources Technology program. The lab demonstrated forest thinning across 40 acres of stump-sprouted maple trees at Columbia Stock Ranch, a 960-acre property located north of Sauvie Island.
Columbia Land Trust has partnered with MHCC since 2013, training students in field techniques as preparation for natural resources careers.
“The skills taught in these courses are the skills that our land managers employ every day,” said Land Trust Volunteer Coordinator Sam Schongalla. The associate of applied science degree through MHCC has two tracks in forest and wildlife resources technology. Choosing from courses in botany, fire ecology, forest insects, and diseases, as well as technical report writing, students are graduating with a well-rounded education in all things nature and tech.
The Land Trust has engaged more than 50 students and hosted 2 interns, who have contributed more than 350 hours of support. Plus, a dozen volunteers from the program regularly participate in plantings and ecological surveys. Supporting the hands-on development of future land managers helps ensure the long-term stewardship of our conserved spaces.
“It was my introduction to the Land Trust that initially had me articulating my passions,” said summer 2015 Land Trust stewardship intern and MHCC graduate Hannah Carlos.
Students have also participated in 2 controlled burns of 100 slash piles (natural forest debris left behind by forest management), and have created restoration plans for wildlife habitat and watershed protection on conserved lands. “Students light up with the realization that natural resources management can look like what we do: restoring floodplains and protecting local habitat,” said Schongalla.
After having felled her first tree, the petite young woman was ready for anything. As she turned to her classmates, a grin stretched across her face and she prepared to test her new chainsaw skills once again.