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Conserving The Health Of Our Local Forest Community


Sustainable Forestry Goes to Camp

Vermont Family Forests partners with the Girl Scout Council of Vermont to bring sustainable forestry to Camp Wapanacki in Hardwick, Vermont.

This project was funded in part through a grant awarded by the Northern Forest Partnership Program, a USDA Forest Service, North East State Foresters Association and the Northern Forest Center program.

Project Update

VFF has been awarded a grant from the Northern Forest Center and the North East State Foresters Association for an exciting, collaborative project we call Sustainable Forestry Goes to Camp. Through this grant, VFF has teamed up with the Girl Scout Council of Vermont and the University of Vermont to integrate sustainable forestry, local value adding, certified forest product marketing, and hands-on learning within the context of a youth camping experience in the northern forest.

Each year thousands of young campers head to the Northern Forest for their annual summer camp experience. These camping experiences provide an ideal opportunity to explore the ecological, economic, and social elements of sustainable forestry. Camp Wapanacki, in Hardwick, Vermont, is owned and operated by the Girl Scout Council of Vermont. Girls from first grade through high school attend the camp to canoe, kayak, swim, hike, backpack, and learn arts, crafts, campfire cooking and more in a forested setting. Although the 300-acre forest has been cultivated periodically, the management of the forest has not been fully developed according to sustainable forest management principles. And the forestry has not been fully integrated into the camping experience.

Through this project, we’ll be making a comprehensive forest inventory; creating of a natural community map; developing of an FSC-certified forest management plan; harvesting of a small quantity of timber; and creating, through local value-adding, a high-quality finished product that will then be marketed to customers wishing to simultaneously support the Girl Scouts and sustainable forestry. And we’ll design and implement an educational program to educate campers and the public about each step in the process. We’re very excited about this project, which so fully addresses the three key ingredients to conserving private lands: informed stewards, sound economic returns from stewardship, and a community supported land ethic.

Project Update

“Sooo Cool!" That was the feedback from the Girl Scout counselors-in-training who participated in a Vermont Family Forests workshop in sustainable forestry in August, 2006. From searching for macroinvertebrates in a forest stream to hand-planing a spruce board to carve a canoe paddle, the girls experienced sustainable forestry in action in the woods surrounding their summer camp.

For ten years, Camp Wapanacki, in Hardwick, Vermont, has been home-away-from-home during the summer for hundreds of Girl Scouts who come to the camp to ride horses, swim, camp, canoe, hike, sing songs, and more. Three hundred acres of rolling, forested landscape form a beautiful backdrop for camp life.

This year, Vermont Family Forests and the Girl Scouts Council of Vermont teamed up to move those forests from backdrop to center stage. Our mutual goal was to integrate sustainable forestry into camp life and involve campers in the scientific, technological, and economic aspects of sustainable management of the Camp's forest lands. Moreover, the project would expose campers to forest-related careers and broaden their knowledge of the relationships among Vermont's forests, people, environmental health, and local economic vitality.

The first step was to develop a Forest Stewardship Council-certified management plan for the property. With this in hand, land managers can make management decisions that maintain or improve forest health. This spring, mapping specialist Barb Otsuka inventoried and mapped the land's natural communities, and Nancy Patch of North Woods Forestry created the forest management plan. These steps accomplished, Camp Wapanacki became the latest addition to the VFF certified forest pool.

Next we planned and carried out a workshop that immersed the girls in sustainable forestry, from the healthy forest to a finished wood product. Led by Sterling College student Silas Clark of Bristol, the girls first explored indicators of forest health — excellent water quality, productive soils, and native biological diversity.

David Brynn of Vermont Family Forests then explained how a forest manager selects trees for harvest in a way that maintains forest health. The girls measured and calculated the lumber volume of a spruce tree that had been selected for thinning. Then, after a pause to give gratitude to the tree, logger Amelia Gardner felled the spruce, and the girls carried two eight-foot logs out of the forest to a nearby portable sawmill.

Local sawyer Will Strong milled the spruce logs into boards, which the girls carried back to the camp maintenance building, to be stacked to dry until next summer. Paddle-maker Ann Ingerson of Craftsbury Common then showed the girls what those spruce boards will yield when dry — lightweight, beautiful, hand-carved canoe paddles. Ann demonstrated the paddle-making process, and the girls tried out the tools, hooting with delight as shavings curled from the wood.

During the fall, the camp will fell and mill several more spruce trees to build up a supply of wood for paddle-making. Next summer, the wood will be dry and ready for the first campers to begin carving their paddles.

Says Charlie La Rosa of the Girl Scout Council of Vermont board of directors, "When the girls who attend our camps now come back with their own daughters in future years, they should be able to point with pride and satisfaction to the forests they visited, analyzed, monitored, and cared for when they were Scouts." What's more, they can share with their daughters the paddles they carefully crafted out of wood from those healthy, carefully managed forests. Now that's experiential education!

This fall, the Camp conducted a small spruce harvest. The wood will be milled locally and air-dried at the camp for use in paddle-making next summer camp season.

Silas Clark (left) of Sterling College and Camp Wapanacki counselors-in-training search for macroinvertebrates on stones gathered from a forest stream. Healthy surface water is one indicator of forest health. Girls also assessed soil compaction and noted native biological diversity, two more forest health indicators.



After learning the basics of assessing forest health, the counselors-in-training learned how a forester selects and measures trees to harvest





Amelia Gardner shows counselors-in-training how to safely fell a tree. She then felled it precisely where she'd planned to, and cut two 8-foot logs from the tree for milling.   








Counselors-in-training used traditional logging tools to move and carry the logs to a nearby portable sawmill, operated by Will Strong.



Counselors-in-training watch as Will Strong mills the spruce logs into boards, which the Girl Scouts carry back to camp for storage and




Ann Ingerson shows the counselors-in-training some of the many canoe paddles she has carved over the years, then demonstrates how to use hand tools to carve a wooden blank into a paddle.




The Girl Scouts try their hands at paddle carving. Since that workshop, Camp Wapanacki has conducted a small spruce harvest and plans to use the wood next year to teach campers how to carve paddles using spruce from the Camp's sustainably managed forests.