CANYON CITY - In cooperation with Prairie Wood Products, Malheur Lumber Company, Malheur Timber and other outdoor and forestry related organizations, the Grant County Court gave approval to Bryan Nelson and Nancy Hafer, Forest Ecology Outdoor School co-chairs, at its meeting on Wednesday, March 10, for the expenditure of Title III funds to conduct this year's school.

The school will be held on Friday, May 21, in the Swick Creek area of Bear Valley, with fifth- and sixth-grade students from area schools in attendance.

"There is a gap in the curriculum at schools and the kids are not getting the whole picture about what forest ecology truly means," Hafer said. "The Forest Ecology Outdoor School fills that gap."

The program originated in 1996 and has been well-attended and well-received by students every year it has been held.

"There is so much information on forest ecology and forest management available to students that they might not be getting in school classes," Nelson said. "What we like to do is give the kids the facts and help them understand just what forest ecology is all about and then allow them to make their own decisions."

Various individuals including those associated with wildlife management, members of the Burns Paiute Indian Tribe, historians on early ranching and logging present information at the school on how these interests had an effect on the forest in years past and what the future for forest management will be.

"What we try to do is give younger students a look at all sides of the picture on how forests are impacted and let them develop their own opinions," Nelson said.

Hafer said the Swick Creek area is a perfect location for the school.

"A portion of the forest in the area was thinned out about 15 years ago and other parts are old-growth forest with thickets," Nelson said. "This gives students the opportunity to view what forest management looks like in the thinned areas and how the forest is when it is just left alone with nothing done to it."

"Another part of the area is all open meadows," Hafer added.

The school offers 10 separate "stations" where representatives from the timber industry, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Native Americans, to name a few, speak on how each of their separate entities handle forest-related issues.

"We try to keep things simple and do a lot of hands-on things rather than just have people lecture all day," said Nelson. "The kids love the hands-on parts of the presentations."

This year the school is expected to attract approximately 200 students from John Day, Prairie City and Seneca.

"We are trying to get kids to come over from Monument, Dayville and Long Creek as well," Nelson said. "The tribe also sends kids from the Burns area, and there are about 10 high school students from Grant Union who come in and help us set things up."

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