|Alabama 4-H Forestry team (from left): Angela Nichols (Coach), Gavin Rankins, Seth Rankins, Polly Barron, Lisa Barron, Sherry Barron, Baylor Nichols and Greg Nichols (Coach). The National 4-H Forestry Invitational was held at West Virginia University Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp and Conference Center near Weston, WV.|
Alabama Forestry team earns top honors at National 4-H Forestry Invitational.
Alabama placed first among 12 state teams that competed in the 35th annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational July 27-31. Teams from New York and Georgia placed second and third, respectively. Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia were also represented at this year’s Invitational.
Alabama 4-H Forestry teams have won the national competition 18 times since 1984. Alabama 4-H forestry team members have won the high point individual 13 times since 1987.
"We are tremendously proud of the Alabama Forestry Judging Team for winning the national competition," said Dr. Gary Lemme, director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. "Alabama has a long history of success at this national competition. It is great to see the knowledge and skills these youth have developed translate to success at the national level.
"Forestry is an important part of both Alabama’s economy and its natural environment. Young people learn about its significance through a number of Alabama 4-H natural resource programs."
Alabama was represented by Lisa and Polly Barron from Auburn, and Gavin and Seth Rankins from Cusseta. The team was coached by Greg and Angela Nichols from Lafayette. Alabama team member Lisa Barron received the high point individual award. Second place high individual award was given to Daryl Blough from New York and third place high individual award was given to Seth Rankins from Alabama.
"I have seen the youth involved on the 4-H Forestry Judging Team gain more than an opportunity to become skilled in tree identification, insect and diseases, and timber volume calculations," said Greg Nichols, a volunteer coach for the Alabama team. "Participation also allowed team members to learn in an outdoor classroom how to manage resources to meet landowner goals and the importance of the forestry industry to our local area.
"Forestry judging events provide a platform for working with other youth throughout the state and the nation in a competitive and fun environment. As a father and landowner, I have also benefited from my children knowing how to better manage our land and have the ability to gain employment with local foresters."
Lisa’s first year on the team was 2013.
"I never thought I would be interested in trees and forests, but now that I am I have realized there is so much out there. I have learned a lot and I am still learning every day. As a team, and individually, we studied really hard in the woods and on the computer for a year to prepare for the national competition. It was worth all the hard work."
Seth said that in 2013, the team decided to attend the national competition.
"We made up our minds to go and win, and that is exactly what we did."
The invitational was held at West Virginia University Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp and Conference Center near Weston, WV. While at the Invitational, 4-H members competed for overall team and individual awards in several categories. Events included tree identification, tree measurement, compass and pacing, insect and disease identification, topographic map use, forest evaluation, the forestry bowl and a written forestry exam.
The event was sponsored by Farm Credit System, Plum Creek, The Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc., The Society of American Foresters, West Virginia University Extension Service, The American Forest Foundation and the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals.
4-H is a youth education program operated by the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and the state land grant universities. More than 6 million youth, 540,000 volunteers and 3,500 professionals participate in 4-H nationwide, and nearly 100,000 are part of the 4-H Forestry Program.
Donna Reynolds is the communication editor of news and public affairs with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in Auburn.