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DailyTidings.com
  • EDUCATION IN ASHLAND

    Rewarding work

    High school students help return parts of watershed to a more natural state
  • High school students from Medford, Ashland and Phoenix armed with hard hats and Pulaskis are helping prevent eager madrone sprouts from taking over parts of the Ashland watershed that have been thinned to reduce fire danger.
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  • High school students from Medford, Ashland and Phoenix armed with hard hats and Pulaskis are helping prevent eager madrone sprouts from taking over parts of the Ashland watershed that have been thinned to reduce fire danger.
    "These (madrone) plants try to choke out our legacy trees," says Mario Miller of Phoenix High School. "But when we finish a day's work and look out on it all, you just know that's not going to happen. You wouldn't think this work is rewarding, but it's very satisfying."
    The students are part of the Ashland Watershed Youth Training and Employment Program, sponsored by the Lomakatsi Restoration Project. They are paid $10 an hour to whack down the sprouts with their Pulaskis (part ax, part adze), all the while learning forestry science from guest presenters and deciding whether this might be a good career.
    "I'm really excited about this," says Caitlyn Castle of Logos Public Charter School in Medford. "Everyone is so enthusiastic and involved. I've always wanted this, to learn how to protect the environment and put it back where it should be."
    The outdoor laboratory, combined with class instruction, is being recognized and modeled nationally, says Marko Bey, executive director of Lomakatsi.
    Students spent a day in the Freemont-Winema National Forest teaching the model — along with fire ecology and plant identification — to young people of the Klamath Tribe. On another day, they traveled to a meadow reclamation project on the Umpqua River.
    The project helps students become aware of job opportunities in the forests of Southern Oregon, says Ryan Puckett, Lomakatsi workforce trainer.
    "We're trying to show them there's a lot of partnership here," says Puckett. "Ecology restoration is the future and we want to get the spark going in them that this is how it works."
    Isabel Enns of Ashland High School is hoping for a career in psychology and believes the wilderness could play an important role in mental health, she says.
    Sponsoring the program with Lomakatsi is the Nature Conservancy, the city of Ashland and the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the land, says Alicia Fitzgerald, Lomakatsi outreach and communications manager.
    Lomakatsi has spent years thinning the Ashland watershed to prevent any fire from reaching the tops of ancient trees, thus increasing forest and stream health. Trimming madrone and other sprouts over a minimum of five years, says Fitzgerald, ensures the forest will maintain its restored ecology.
    John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.
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