Last updated on December 23, 2022
The second, annual, 4-day Forests of New Hampshire Teacher Tour, July 2022, was based out of Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, NH- the largest state park with over 10,000 acres. The focus was on long-term sustainable management of NH forests- places that provide so many benefits for our health, wildlife, and economy. This year we visited a variety of sites in the more southern part of the state. The event is hosted by the NH Timberland Owners Association, thanks to Cheri Birch’s role as program director, with support from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, an organization operating in the U.S. and Canada, that is founded on four pillars: standards, conservation, community, and education.
The group of educators traveled by bus to interact firsthand with those who care about and work in and on behalf of. our forests. We were exposed to a huge array of associated “green” jobs. We met with foresters, loggers, sawmill operators, individuals who procure wood for mills, faculty of forestry in the 2- and 4-year degree programs with the University of NH’s College of Life and Agriculture, managers of biomass (wood) generation facilities, and, of course, a variety of landowners who have been recognized for their land stewardship by the NH Tree Farm program. “Tree Farmers” manage their woodlots to produce timber while seeking to maintain wildlife habitat, water quality, recreation, and scenic values.
The program included presentations on carbon storage and sequestration in forests related to concerns about climate change. Professional extension educators also shared their knowledge, teaching strategies, and tools related to understanding the importance of soils and providing pollinator friendly habitat.
A rich part of the week’s experience was immersing ourselves in NH’s state forests and learning about the variety of committed, passionate individuals who own or make their living from stewarding our forests and its resources. Interspersed with meeting dedicated professionals and learning current information and up to date technology related to the forest industry, educator participants were introduced to award winning, interdisciplinary, nationally acclaimed Project Learning Tree K-12 activities, for science, technology, language arts and social studies educators to take back to engage students in their classrooms.
We invite educators to next year’s program to learn about the many benefits our New Hampshire forests provide our citizens. NH is the second most forested state in the United States, after Maine, 81 percent of the state’s land base is forested- 4.8 million acres. New Hampshire’s private forest-land owners, including individuals, control 73 percent of New Hampshire’s forest land, with the remainder owned by state and federal organizations, https://www.nh.gov/nhdfl/reports/forest-statistics.htm.
The Forests of New Hampshire Teacher Tour can accommodate up to 20 participants and the per person cost for 2022 was $150, with the remaining value of the tour, estimated to be over $500, covered by the hosting organizations and grants. I am already looking forward to NH’s third tour for educators summer 2023. The program was modelled after a long- established, successful program in Maine. Both Cheri Birch and MaryAnn McGarry participated in a program in Maine before launching NH’s tour.
As a professor emeritus from the Plymouth State University Environmental Science and Policy program, and now teaching lecturer, I feel fortunate for the opportunity to be involved and assist Cheri Birch with this rich educational program. Key highlights for me from the ’22 tour were meeting all the professionals who contribute to keeping NH forested and their interest in promoting diverse professional opportunities for young, new professionals. I became energized by the attendees’ raised awareness about the importance of forests in New Hampshire. I learned about new, rare plants; the extent and location of damage from specific invasive insects and how the problems are being addressed; the desirability and uniqueness of New Hampshire’s red oak, especially for the Chinese market; and about the emphasis of some landowners on providing pollinator friendly habitat.
The 14 educator participants reported: being impressed by the passion and expertise of presenters; having pre-conceived notions dispelled about forestry practices, recognizing that forests can be managed sustainably; feeling motivated to incorporate new knowledge with students including about related green job opportunities; and appreciating making great connections with professionals and other educators.
Thanks to all who offered their time and knowledge and opened their facilities and land to our tour.