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It’s all about beautifying the land

By Staff | Oct 11, 2010

Forest Technology students, Kelly Tome and Corey Randall from Hughesville, measure tree species plus the volume and height of the trees in order to record the data through GPS technology using overhead satellites that help survey timber tracks.

ALLENWOOD – Since 1968 the School of Natural Resources Management has offered Forest Technology to students attending the Pennsylvania College of Technology. Now located at the Earth Science Center in Allenwood hundreds of students have taken the two year accredited program and have been placed in highly trained jobs serving positions in wildlife management, forest management, environmental planning, quality control and lumber yard supervisors, just to name a few.

The program provides an academic background introducing specialized skills for a variety of career opportunities in forestry production, wood processing and manufacturing industries.

The coursework emphasizes outdoor learning and practical hands-on experience. Graduates have a diverse set of skills and abilities that could prepare them for “green” careers focused on energy, renewable energy, and the environment.

“We teach them safety procedures first in the work environment,” said Dennis Ringling, Professor of Forest Technology for 38 years and holds a doctorate degree in vocational education. Measuring the volume of trees is a big part of learning the industry. Students learn to prepare a forest land management plan using the concepts of forest management. They learn how to operate tools and equipment to harvest a timber crop.

Corey Randall a 2009 graduate of Hughesville High School hopes to find employment in the lumber industry managing woodlands. “I like to be outside in the woods, to hunt and fish and I can be outdoors in this program,” said Randall who is in his second term and resides in Muncy.

“First, we evaluate the site to determine what trees should be removed. We take measurements of each tree and put that information into the data recorder,” said Kelly Tome, also from Hughesville.

“We review and download the information we gather using overhead satellites into the computer to further evaluate and survey timber tracks,” explained Tome who switched majors from nursing to forestry.

A lot goes into managing a wood lot or forest including taking into account the impact on wildlife. “A lot of tax dollars are tied up here,” said Ringling. “We train foresters to maintain, evaluate and grow trees so that we will always have this resource for our children’s children,” he added. Working with the Society of American Foresters and the Pennsylvania Wilds Association, these students learn to give back to the forest using their skills and knowledge to beautify the forest land.

“This program allows me to be both in the classroom and outdoors,” said Tome. “I have more hands-on experience.” She hopes to find a job on the recreation side of the industry, possibly working with DCNR.

Forestry is no longer a non-traditional industry for females. About 3 to 5 females graduate each semester in the field. Pennsylvania is one of the biggest employers for this program. “We’ve had some good placement for the women,” noted Ringling.

Learning how to operate heavy equipment, cutting down trees, and hauling timber to the landing docks are some of the general objectives in the course. Safety practices are always a big part for each individual operation. “We are one of few colleges that have a fully-operational sawmill on campus! Our end product is lumber that is used by builders, furniture companies and a variety of other enterprises,” said Ringling who is one of four instructors in Forest Technology.

Dendrology, which is AncientGreek, is the science and study of wooded plants, trees, and shrubs. The Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources contracts with the School of Natural Resources in Allenwood to cut and mark and harvest their trees. For three years students have been going to Bald Eagle Mountain to identify the hardwoods, such as red oak.

Career Fair Scheduled October 19

Students are now getting ready for a Career Fair on Tuesday, October 19 at the Earth Science Center. “It is not hard for them to find jobs in this field,” said Melissa Slocum, career adivisor at the center. Besides the numerous jobs we have posted from outside the area, students can also go online and job search. Some current career postings are for environmental education specialists, landscape supervisors, equipment managers, forestry technicians, and forest rangers.

“This is just a small fraction of what is available,” Slocum said. “We need supervisors, logging crews, landscapers, and watershed technicians to provide assistance to land owners.” Scholarships are offered, many through local garden clubs. Some companies will offer sign-on bonuses often starting at $4,000. “We will always need forestry technicians and ranger positions in our national forests.” added Ringling.