A recent timber harvest at the Frazee-Vergas School Forest is providing students an interactive look at a working forest, and an up-close educational opportunity to witness active forest management and its contribution to Minnesota’s environment, economy and outdoor recreation.
School forests are outdoor classrooms that provide outdoor and environmental experiences. Students learn and apply math, art, science, language arts and social studies while gaining an appreciation and awareness of natural resources at 145 locations across Minnesota.
With guidance from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the selective harvest of mature red pines within a 32-acre area (known as a “thinning”) reduced tree crowding and will help maintain the health of the remaining trees.
The thinning is an important part of the Frazee-Vergas School Forest management plan, which considers forest ecology, clean water, wildlife habitat, forest regeneration and educational opportunities. The Frazee-Vergas School Forest is 240 acres and has been actively managed by the school since 1963.
Frazee High School science teacher Doug Schwarzrock said even in Becker County, where the outdoors are a way of life for many students, the school forest timber harvest is their initial entry point to understanding forestry and active forest management.
“They’re impressed with the technology of the timber operation and have many questions,” added Schwarzrock “Why is it being harvested in winter as opposed to summer? How long until it grows back? Where does the wood go?”
Kylee Berger, DNR forester, said the school and the DNR will continue to manage this stand with additional thinning in the coming years. In 15 to 20 years, the site will be replanted to conifers, ensuring an ecologically diverse and sustainable forest is maintained.
The harvested wood is headed to a pair of regional mills, where it will be turned into lumber and animal bedding. But loggers and lumber mills aren’t the only economic benefactors. The timber sale pumps money back into the school forest’s coffers.
The school forest is also popular for local public hiking and snowshoeing, and Schwarzrock said the funding could help with forest trail development and a much-needed accessible bathroom.