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Elke Named Honorary Chairman of State Forestry Contest

Curtis Elke, State Conservationist, named Honorary Chairman at the Idaho State Forestry Contest
Curtis Elke (left), State Conservationist, named Honorary Chairman at the Idaho State Forestry Contest

The Idaho State Forestry Contest was held on May 9th at the Delay Tree Farm near Coeur d’Alene. This annual competition began in 1983 and is held by the Idaho Department of Lands, Bonner Soil and Water Conservation District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Forest Service.

Curtis Elke, State Conservationist for NRCS in Idaho, has been selected as the Honorary Chairman for 2019 in recognition for his championing of the contest, helping contest organizers secure more volunteers as well as a five-year NRCS grant. The grant has been used to purchase equipment – including practice kits teams can use in advance of the competition.

“It is such an honor to be chosen,” said Elke. “Forestry is such an important part of Idaho’s economy and ecological health. This contest allows these students to not only test their knowledge and understanding of the field, but also to learn about the career paths it offers. They may even decide they would like to work as a forester for NRCS some day!”

The Forestry Contest is set up so individuals as well as four-member teams may compete. Each contestant, whether competing solo or as a member of a team receives an individual score. For the teams, each member’s score is combined to arrive at the team total.

There are two divisions within the contest “Juniors and Seniors” and the “Rookie Course” Juniors & Seniors are tested on Log Scaling, Timber Cruising, Tree & Plant Identification, Map Reading, Compass Reading & Pacing, Tool Identification, Soils & Water Quality, Tree Health, Silviculture and Noxious Weeds along with Logging Selectively.

The Rookie Course is an introductory competition designed for sixth-grade students and under. This course tests the following subjects: Tree Identification, Compass Reading & Pacing, Tree Cruising, Log Scaling, and Map Reading. Rookie contestants also test on Intro to Silviculture, but this section is not scored.

In addition, the Forestry Contest offers a Novice Course – an introductory “Forestry Tour” that is led by a professional forester. The Novice Course is designed for students who have not attended before.

Future Farmers of America, 4-H clubs, and school students from across the state are eligible to compete in the contest, which has grown from 35 students in 1982 to more than 700.

NRCS has a tradition of supporting the competition with employees from the Bonner’s Ferry, Coeur d’Alene, Plummer and Sandpoint field offices helping out in various ways as do staff from the area office located in Moscow.

“I really appreciate how involved our field offices are in the State Forestry Contest,” said Tony Sunseri, NRCS Idaho Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations – Area West. “Each year they make the time to offer their support in a hands-on way.” 

In addition to Bonner SWCD, a number of Idaho’s Conservation Districts offer their support of the contest, including Ada, Benewah, Boundary, Camas, Custer, Clark, East Cassia, East Side, Gooding, Idaho, Kootenai-Shoshone, Latah, Madison, Minidoka, Nezperce, North Side, South Bingham, Twin Falls, West Cassia, West Side and Wood River.

“Our conservation districts are great partners, not only in NRCS’s day-to-day work, but in stepping up to support and assist with special educational events, such as the Forestry Contest,” Elke said.

The Idaho State Forestry Contest Steering committee, thanked Elke, as the head of NRCS Idaho for his “huge role in educating Idaho youth about Idaho forest resources and the opportunities they have to learn about, enjoy, use, protect and manage these priceless resources for the future!” 

If you are interested in learning more about the subjects students are tested on for the contest, you can find an online copy of the Forestry Contest Manual here. The site includes additional resources and videos from the 2018 competition.