Nearly 25 years ago, when the Family Forestry Expo started, the forest products industry and land managers really struggled with how to best share the story of sustainable forest management with the public. Many foresters choose this profession so they can work in the woods, oftentimes alone. Communication with the general public is often not their strong point. Expo changed that.
Now the Family Forestry Expo is a mainstay for community forestry education in the Flathead Valley. The Expo features one day for families and five days for area fifth-graders to experience time in the woods, including a tour of a local mill and programs at different learning stations along a half-mile, wood-chipped trail at the forest site. The goal of Expo is to present unbiased information to students and families about the role of Northwest Montana forests and the multiple opportunities and resources forests provide in everyday life.
The Expo takes place at the Trumbull Creek Educational Forest on land owned by Stoltze Land and Lumber Company, located just north and west of Columbia Falls. This year there will be record attendance of nearly 1,400 fifth-grade students from 31 schools stretching from Eureka to Charlo scheduled to visit the Expo between May 6 and 10. Natural resource professionals become teachers, leading activities on the topics of forest wildlife and fisheries, archeology, forest management, backcountry camping, forest plants, wildland fire and forest riparian areas. Classes also have the opportunity to tour a local sawmill, plywood or medium-density fiberboard plant.
About 800 visitors are expected on Saturday, May 11. For many the Expo has become a “Mother’s Day weekend tradition.” Parents and grandparents bring along kids and grandkids, sharing a day in the woods whether it’s a bright, warm, sunny, shorts-and-sunscreen year or a cool, umbrella-and-mud-boots year. Now nearly a quarter-century old, the Expo draws parents who first visited the Trumbull Creek Educational Forest as fifth-graders and now attend with their children to share the experience.
Longtime Expo visitor Cecilia Lewellen says, “I went to the forestry expo every year with my grandpa growing up! I always looked forward to going with him and getting trees to take home and plant! We still have several growing. Now I love taking my boys to the expo! It usually falls on Mother’s Day weekend – I can’t imagine a better way to spend time with my family than going to the expo! It’s a fun time for all!”
It’s not an easy undertaking to create the outdoor classroom, staff all the stations, order all the supplies, and provide for the safety of more than a 1,000 children. However, each year a group of strictly volunteers from the forestry management community join forces to put on the week-long event and educate people of all ages about forests and their uses. This year nearly 100 businesses and organizations donated money, talent and time to make Expo a reality.
Become part of the tradition. Join the expo on Saturday, May 11, when families enjoy a free “loggers lunch,” demonstrations, education stations and exhibits. The weekend activities are aimed at the entertainment and education of the whole family.
The exhibit tent features displays on a variety of forest topics and hands-on opportunities for families with paper making and cross-cut saw handling. Families can enjoy a self-guided forest walking tour along the half-mile trail with educational stations. There are two grandstand shows that feature the Flathead Valley Community College Logging Sports Team, a U.S. Forest Service pack string and modern logging equipment demonstrations.
Written by Family Forestry Expo Volunteers Paul McKenzie, Teresa Wenum, Keith Valentine and Wade Muehlhof
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