Climbing trees with spurs on, sawing through a log with a handsaw, and setting chains around logs to lift them are skills real foresters use—and also skills that Clatskanie Middle/High School students practiced during the annual Forestry Skills Day at the school on Saturday, April 6.

Five visiting schools also competed: Knappa High School, Tillamook High School, Sweet Home High School, Philomath High School, and Sabin Charter School, and drew around 70 students, according to CMHS Forestry Skills teacher, Denny Flatz. This was the sixth competition of the year, and there will be one more at the state convention on April 26 and 27, which will be held at Hopkins Memorial Forest, an affiliate of Oregon State University.

Forestry Skills Day (FSD) is split into two categories: technical and physical. The technical skills that FSD tests are plant and tool identification, map reading, compass and pacing, written expression, job interview, prepared speech, job demonstration speech, first aid, log scaling and timber cruising.

The physical skills that are tested include cable splicing, cross cut, choker setting, hose lay, spur climbing, arbor climbing, and log rolling.

The day is meant to give students the opportunity to practice the typical skills needed for a career in natural resources.

Breakfast for teams and judges was served at 8 a.m. in the commons at the school, and the national anthem began the day at 9 a.m. To hang the American flag, two student climbers donned spurs and scaled two logs placed an even distance apart from each other and hung the flag on a cord that was stretched between them.

CMHS juniors Faith Sterba and Emily Crape competed together in cable splicing.

“The goal is to triple-tuck seven strands and make sure that they’re tight and well-tucked, and then you’re trying to get the lowest time with the best tightness of the strands,” Sterba said. She explained that natural resource professionals will use cable splicing to repair and connect damaged cables rather than installing new cables.

Ethan Baker, a freshman at CMHS, competed in the cross-cut with teammate Keagen Holsey, which involves two people hand-sawing off a piece of a log. Baker said that there are a few tactics that should be used to cut the log as quickly as possible.

“If you’re up too high, it won’t cut as smoothly, and if you have an oiler, it has less friction,” Baker said. Each team that competed in the cross-cut had a person spraying oil onto the saw to reduce the friction between metal and wood. Baker also said the goal of the competition was to saw off the piece of log in the shortest amount of time, without breaking the log piece.

Jenny Hagen, a freshman at CMHS, competed in the spur climb, which she said was her favorite event. The spur-climbing task involves wearing a harness and spurs, knotting the rope in the harness properly, and climbing up a tree as quick as possible until the climber reaches a marked red line. Hagen had a few tips for climbing the tree as fast as possible.

“You don’t want to put your knees close together, you want to spread them apart on both sides of the tree. You don’t want to keep them bent, or else the spurs could come out,” Hagen said.

Bryce Puckett, a senior at CMHS, competed in the choker set, which involves racing against a partner to attach a bell underneath a fallen log, while hurdling over another fallen log in the process. The race is a construction of the competition, but the practice of attaching a bell underneath logs is real.

“It’s to pull the logs up on top of the landing,” Puckett said, explaining that foresters need to pull logs up from where they’ve been cut to where they can further work on them.

At the end of the day, numerous medals were awarded in eight different categories. The competition also had overall awards, including an “overall Jack” for the male competitor with the best overall score, and “overall Jill” for the female competitor with the best overall score.

Trent Berntsen from CMHS won the “overall Jack” award, and Becky Belcher from Sweet Home High School won the “overall Jill” award.

Schools were also ranked, and CMHS placed first, with 527 points, followed by Sweet Home High School with 398 points and Philomath High School with 134 points.


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