Finding common ground in the forest is one of the key goals of the Family Forestry Expo in the Flathead, and it has been since the Expo first came together 25-years-ago. May 5-9, fifth graders from across the area head to a section of forest on the outskirts of Columbia Falls learning about fisheries, forest fire, back country camping and safety, logging, and more.
Spotted Bear District Ranger Deb Mucklow with the Flathead National Forest worked on the very first Forestry Expo in 1989. She said there was a lot of polarization on natural resources issues.
“It was very important to think about what is the common understanding, what are the key components of education that need to be shared so that people can then make their own informed decisions on where they stand on different issues that exist out there. But, having an environment that’s not promoting one viewpoint or the other, but promoting the science and the educational aspect of it,” Mucklow said.
State agencies like Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation as well as private organizations like the Audubon Society and Back Country Horsemen teach at the different stations. Mucklow said something else that has changed is people’s familiarity with the logging industry; the equipment used, and how it’s done.
“How much care that those operators have for that equipment, and for the landscape. A lot of folks just thought, ‘oh, they want to do whatever they do,’ and people have learned and valued that these guys are also the skilled expert, and they care very much that wood is a renewable aspect of the forest,” Mucklow said.
The Expo opens to the public on Saturday May 10, entry is free.