High school students watch a Sunpine Forest Products delimber clean trees at the Des Crossley Demonstration Forest southwest of Rocky Mountain House Tuesday.

Demonstration forest offers insights into industry

Where better to learn forestry, oilpatch development and woodland safety than in a West Country forest?

Where better to learn forestry, oilpatch development and woodland safety than in a West Country forest?

About 100 Rocky Mountain House and Sylvan Lake high school students spent a day at Des Crossley Demonstration Forest hearing firsthand about the industries’ responsibilities and opportunities.

Forestry and oilfield workers guided St. Dominic Catholic High and H.J. Cody Schools’ Grades 9 to 11 students on Tuesday as they scaled large machines, calculated tree measurements and ran fire hoses.

The Des Crossley forest, a quarter-section 25 km southwest of Rocky, is named for a pioneering forester whose 1950s research found clearcutting the most efficient way to regenerate tree growth. It’s free education events have drawn about 5,000 Alberta Grade 4 to 12 students since it began operation in 1999. It’s run as a partnership between Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Sunpine Forest Products, Devon Canada and Inside Education.

“It’s a unique way to learn, all these collaborators showing what we do in Alberta,” said Kathryn Wagner of Inside Education. Her organization combines government, industry, education and non-profit input for “bias-balanced” teaching about a healthy environment and productive economy.

Taylor Palechek, 15, appreciated that.

“How they plan everything is nice,” said the Sylvan Lake student.

“I’m a big wildlife person so I don’t like seeing the habitat ruined.”

Integrating curriculum with industry practices is vital for program success, said Tom Daniels, Sunpine Forest Products’ forestry superintendent.

The endorsement was echoed by Sylvan career and technologies teacher Linda Wagers.

“The hands-on experience is far beyond what I could do at the school. It brings a whole different perspective to the vastness of the forestry industry.”

Career choices are a major program focus. Devon Canada employees explained the road and site construction needed for hundreds of gas wells in the company’s surrounding Ferrier field. ESRD stations covered ranger duties, firefighting and bear identification and safety.

An Alberta Forest Products Association’s Work Wild instructor told students that running forestry machinery needs the same eye-hand co-ordination as playing video games — and can be just as much fun.

“I found it pretty fun, especially all the equipment they brought out. It was great today,” said Tyler Peterson, 14, of Rocky.


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