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Trees and Teaching

Drew Terteling walked by the poster half a dozen times before one word caught his eye.

“It was the word ‘outdoor’ that got my attention,” he said.

He snapped a photo of the flier, which advertised summer internships with the Baker Resources Coalition.

Lisa Britton/For the Baker City HeraldCaleb Hawkins drills a core sample on a tree at Steve and Mickey Edwardses’ property near the Elkhorn Mountains west of Baker City.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity, and it turned out to be awesome,” Terteling, 18, said during a break of surveying trees on land owned by Steve and Mickey Edwards near the Elkhorn Mountains west of Baker City.

The program was about a year in the making. Steve Edwards said the idea started with a June 2018 meeting of the Small Woodland Owners Association.

“We’re convinced natural resources are a cornerstone of development to our community,” he said.

A roundtable discussion was organized with representatives from the offices of Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Greg Walden, as well as local commissioners, landowners, loggers, foresters, educators and the Powder Basin Watershed Council. The meeting was facilitated by Wallowa Resources.

The group divided into five discussion groups:

• Future generations

• Woodland management

• Watershed

• Tourism and recreation

• Wildland Urban Interface

Conversations covered problems, solutions and priorities within these topics.

Edwards said the number one priority came out as reaching the future generations. The answer? Summer internships that put youth out in the local landscape to help solve real problems.

“There are a group of people who bloom more outdoors,” Edwards said. “Education is not bound by a space. Learning can take place wherever you are.”

A new group was formed called the Baker Resources Coalition, and fliers advertising the internship program went up at Baker High School.

Eight applied, and three were selected following individual interviews.

Terteling is a new high school graduate. Caleb Hawkins is 16, and Kamrin Sexton is 17.

Their work week is Monday through Thursday, for about five hours per day.

Edwards said participating landowners helped cover costs, which included a stipend for each intern.

“All the work they’re doing is congruent with things we need to do,” Edwards said.

The first project was on land owned by Eileen and Brent Gyllenberg where the Cornet-Windy Ridge Fire in August 2015 damaged vegetation around the stream. The interns helped install fencing to keep the Gyllenbergs’ buffalo herd away from the riparian area, and created ponds and waterfalls within the stream.

“The Gyllenberg ranch was a really great experience,” Terteling said.

Then he smiles as he recounts the manual work.

“I worked my butt off — I didn’t want to go back, but I’m glad I did.”

Edwards said the teenagers learned about replanting native vegetation, preventing erosion and managing the energy of a flowing stream.

“It’s real world,” he said. “These are practical problems.”

The next project was at the ranch of Dean and Sharon Defrees. The interns helped fence aspen groves to protect the trees from elk, and moved cattle using four-wheelers.

The next place was at Edwards’ property at the base of the Elkhorn Mountains. The interns helped set up inventory plots that measured 1/20 of an acre. Within those circles, Terteling and Sexton measured trees while Hawkins took core samples.

Looking at the cylinder of wood, Hawkins counted 20 rings back from the back to determine how much the tree had grown since Edwards purchased the land.

They entered the information into a software program that produced a statistical estimate for the net value of Edwards’ timber.

“They’ve learned how to work together,” Edwards said of the three teenagers.

The fourth project addressed tourism and recreation. The interns met with Alice Trindle at Anthony Lakes to hike the Hoffer Lake trail and learn about the area’s geology, and natural and cultural history.

Then they became the teachers when students from the school district’s Summer Academy program came to hike the trail. Grades 1 and 2 explored the area around Anthony Lake, while grades 3 through 6 hiked to Hoffer Lakes.

The last week of the summer internship was spent with the Powder Basin Watershed Council to learn about water flow, water quality and fish habitat.

The students logged an average of 25 hours per week, and earned about $1,500

“Not only do they get an education, they get some pocket money,” Edwards said.

He said the Baker Resources Coalition hopes to offer the program again next summer, with spots for more interns.

“I’ve already talked to some landowners and they are very excited,” Edwards said. “I would like to see this grow.”

This was originally printed in the Baker City Herald and can be found here:

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