Students learn about forestry, jobs and conservation

LEEDS — Approximately 150 students from the Buckfield Schools, Monmouth Academy, and Leeds Elementary School recently hiked across fields, along skidder trails, and into the woods at the Kennebec Land Trust’s 360-acre Curtis Homestead Conservation Area to learn about sustainable forestry, land conservation, wildlife and local history, according to a news release from the trust.

The annual Curtis Forestry Days provides opportunities for students to learn about Maine’s forestry heritage, career options, and how local lands, including those in their own families, play a role in conservation efforts and local wood economies.

Attendees observed Leeds-based logger Nat Bell and his father, Bruce, harvesting trees and operate a portable sawmill. Joined by retired forester, Joe Sanders, the Bells led discussions about safety measures while working in the woods, different career options in logging and harvest operations, and how forest types differ from the northern to southern parts of the state.

Maine Forest Service District Forester, Oliver Markewicz, and Sappi Forest Technician, Julie Davenport, taught the students about forestry and tree identification, and Lisa Kane, a Natural Science Educator for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, presented an interactive program on Maine’s wildlife and their habitats that enabled students to examine the skulls and pelts of various local animals.

“It’s one of our favorite programs of the year,” said Theresa Kerchner, KLT’s executive director, in the release. “There’s something that each student can identify with, whether it’s a career aspiration, walking in their family’s woodlot, or identifying wildlife in Maine’s woods. Being in the woods with foresters, loggers, sawyers, and wildlife experts is a great learning experience.”

This is the eighth year KLT has offered a sustainable forest-management program at the Curtis Homestead. The classes are supported by the Androscoggin County USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Maine Forest Service, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Kennebec Woodland Partnership. Teachers who wish to participate in the program can contact KLT for reservations for next year’s sessions.

The Curtis Homestead was settled in the early 1800’s and remained in the Curtis family until the year 2000, when former Maine Governor Kenneth Curtis and his sister, Rebecca Curtis Meredith, donated their family’s 360 acres to the Kennebec Land Trust. Currently, the Homestead has over three miles of trails and plays host to school and outdoor programs from forestry and apple tree pruning to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

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