Contest in Nacogdoches County generates interest in conservation and forestry careers

Woodlands competition requires compass skills and timber measurement. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Woodlands competition requires compass skills and timber measurement. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Forage contests require identification knowledge. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Forage contests require identification knowledge. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Tractor driving is what some contestants learned when they were little boys. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Tractor driving is what some contestants learned when they were little boys. (Source: KTRE Staff)

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Federal and state agencies that make conservation their business worked hard today to spark the same interest among area high school students.

A regional conservation contest got students out of the classroom and into the forests.

More than 150 Future Farmers of America and 4-H members competed in the regional conservation contest. It's sponsored by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

There are five events requiring no animals, feed bills, or trailers acknowledges contest coordinator Janet Ritter.

"This event requires nothing of the student other than learning the material," said Janet Ritter, NRCS.

What they learn from ag teachers is put to the test. The largest event is the woodlands contest. Mastery is needed in compass use, measurement devices, and calculation formulas. Regenerating forests is just as important as regenerating foresters.

"It could generate the interest in them to get into the forestry industry for employment down the road," said Al Schmidt, a retired NRCS timber specialist.

Soil use is the contest that can get a bad rap.

"Basically, I just come out here and judge some dirt," said Spencer King, a Woden High School student.

"Soil. Soil. Dirt is what's on your hand after you get through judging," said Don Sabo, a retired NRCS soil scientist.

Sabo has 30 years behind him as a soil scientist.

"In the soils, it seems like there's fewer students, unfortunately, but there's still an interest," Sabo said.

Forage and plant identification and tractor technology round out the events.

"We all have fun working on ranches and stuff," said Garrett Lowery, a student at Douglass High School. He thumped his cap and laughed. "We have to drive tractors anyway, so we might as well come up here and show off our skills."

The Winston Tree Farm hosted today's event. A vista from the private landowner's estate shows why.

Forests, ranches, and farmlands are visible. It illustrates why it is so important for future generations to learn how to take care of Deep East Texas.

"These are some of the things we do on a day to day basis sometimes," Ritter said. "And they can get a taste of it if nothing else."

Those students who did well in today's woodlands qualifying contest are eligible to compete in next week's State Woodlands Finals. More than 200 students from throughout East and Deep East Texas will compete.

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