Ashes to Education

Print Article

Some of the students who participated in an October outdoor learning program. (Photo by Sebastian Sanders)

In Greek Mythology, a Phoenix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or born again. Associated with the sun, a Phoenix obtains new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. In Kootenai Country Montana, our families and community have been doing just that. Noble souls will rush to the aid of a family member in distress at any cost. Sincere and caring community members, professionals and volunteers will fight at the drop of a hat to protect our local communities and their outlying regions from forest and structure fire. And this is how it should be.

In the aftermath of the 2017 fires, we tally more than 85,000 acres on the Kootenai National Forest burned, the highest number of acreage recorded torched since the fires of the 1930s. All of us knew someone directly effected by one or more of our local fires.

Fire was omnipresent in Northwest Montana. And therein lay a Western Larch-golden opportunity for educating our local youth. There are always more challenges than meet the eye in setting up youth outdoor education programs, but this year they were multiplied but the long exhausting fire season, and the scarcity of knowledgeable instructors and volunteers. We were all on fires.

At first light, the chilly early autumn temperatures force a layer of mist to rise off Alvord Lake. A stiff wind blows yellow-toned leaves of cottonwood, birch, mountain maple and nine-bark shrub almost horizontally. The field skills scavenger hunt prizes are hidden now, masked with mossy oak camouflage duct tape and stashed under conks, in pileated woodpecker holes, on overhanging limbs, and off unoccupied wood duck nest boxes. The program for the Libby High School biology classes of Renee Rose and Neil Fuller, and sponsored by Montana Wilderness Association, commenced on Oct. 3 despite obstacles.

The theme for this two-day program focused on how to use your observation skills, be prepared, be firewise and to learn a few lessons from this year’s fire situation. At station one, Jon Jeresek, one of our local avalanche experts, taught how to spot and prepare for avalanches and how to operate and find transceivers and transponders in the field.

At station two, we were very fortunate to be able to get the Firewise Trailer, which is shared by the DNRC and the Forest Service. Even luckier, we were able to get Alan and Lisa Osborn’s help with the trailer, as well as that of Beau Macey. Alan recorded hundreds of hours in air attack operations this year, and Lisa and Beau worked lengthy hours in fire support roles.

Station three, manned by this columnist, was a somewhat mobile station concerned with using one’s powers of observation, animal tracking and sign, birding, tree identification, aging and tree diameters.

As always, it takes some golden hearts to help support and carry out these programs. Thanks to Renee Rose, the adult advisor lady, the bus drivers and teacher Neil Fuller. Also to Edwina Smith who helped with posters and where needed at stations, and Ian Leigh of the Forest Service, who helped us out with some cool poster selections.

Brian Baxter is a forester, wildlife researcher, educator and author of articles on the outdoors. He has worked in the area for decades and teaches a variety of outdoor educational programs for various local groups.

Print Article

Read More Outdoors

Local students get taste of nature

February 09, 2018 at 8:48 am | Western News By BENJAMIN KIBBEY The Western News Over 140 local students learned about their natural world during the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Winter Tracks Outdoor Field Trips in January and Febru...

Comments

Read More

Lincoln County SnoKats fun run: Snowmobile community comes together to raise money, share good times

February 06, 2018 at 8:39 am | Western News By BENJAMIN KIBBEY The Western News The Lincoln County SnoKats snowmobile club hosted 127 snowmobilers — some from as far away as North Dakota — during their annual fun run, February 2. The annual...

Comments

Read More

Derby raises $7,700 for emergency response, draws more young anglers

February 02, 2018 at 5:00 am | Western News Anglers young and old from all around Lincoln County and farther once again gathered Jan. 27-28 at the Thompson Chain of Lakes to see who could haul in the biggest fish. The Lower Thompson Chain of ...

Comments

Read More

Training helps prepare responders, enthusiasts for avalanche risks

February 02, 2018 at 5:00 am | Western News Search and rescue specialists — including some from as far as Boundary County, Idaho — met in Libby Jan. 26-27 to receive training and Avalanche Two certification. The participants also included a f...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 293-4124
311 California Ave.
Libby, MT 59923

©2018 The Western News Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X