Pali Envirothon Club Secures Top Spots in Forestry Challenge

Photo+by+Livia+Rosenmayr

Photo by Livia Rosenmayr

Nico Troedsson, Staff Writer

Pali Envirothon Club participated in the Forestry Challenge in November, landing first, second and fifth place out of the 17 competing teams.

Founded in 2003, the Forestry Challenge is a four-day academic event for high school students focused entirely on technical forestry skills. The outdoor event is completely hands-on, giving students the opportunity to solve real-world forestry problems in the field. This year’s event was held at Camp Hinckley in the San Bernardino Mountains, where participants were asked to develop a plan to improve the property’s resistance to forest fires.

In preparation for the competition, the Envirothon Club “dedicated a few weeks to learning basic forestry concepts through study guides that were provided [by the Forestry Challenge organization],” said Andrew Wu, who is Co-President of the Envirothon Club and a member of the first-place team. “We reviewed how to identify species of trees, how to use forestry tools such as the clinometer, biltmore stick and wedge prism, as well as the current issue topic, which was fire management.”

While club members trained for the competition on the Pali campus, the event itself involved “learning a lot of the skills that are not taught in the classroom, or rather, they can’t be,” Wu said.

“Camp Hinckley has a history of fires and has a lot of trees,” said science teacher Steve Engelmann, the team’s advisor. “The owner taught the kids how to measure trees onsite, how to assess fire damage and how to manage those risks.”

After gathering all the necessary technical information, the students prepared a presentation to advise the camp on the best way to improve the property’s fire resistance.

“[Our presentation] included solutions to removing fuel sources and revegetating the area so that future fires may be prevented or mitigated, a budget to cover costs of operation and government grants that could be utilized to cover these costs,” Wu said.

Although this was the team’s first attempt at the Forestry Challenge, Pali’s team has participated in numerous competitions, winning eight different state Envirothon championships.

“I was mostly thinking about the Forestry Challenge as practice for Envirothon, … and I also wanted the team to have a good bonding experience,” Engelmann said.

Some competitors said they became so close that they extended the experience by camping together during the winter break in Malibu Creek State Park.

Stella Becir, a member of the fifth-place team in the Forestry challenge said: “It was overall just an incredible experience. I made some amazing friends… and I also learned so much. It was so fun just coming together with people who have the same values as I do, and the same environmental consciousness that this day and age especially needs.”