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Baraga School Forest
Logger John Stenvig operated a John Deere harvester, then spoke to students about modern logging practices
during the cut which turned into an outdoor classroom.

Lessons in Logging and Generosity at Baraga, Michigan School Forest
Written by Nancy Besonen

Baraga Area Schools students took to the woods for lessons in logging and much more.

A Baraga School Forest selective harvest became an open-air classroom for approximately 500 students. Youths were bussed to the site to see modern logging practices first-hand and to learn how the forest gives back to the school.

Logger, John Stenvig, and Forester, Byron Sailor, teamed up to present the program with help from businesses and friends. Stenvig said conditions were ripe for the harvest - from forest growth to the weather.

“It was darn near perfect, I’d say,” Stenvig summed up.

Stenvig checked the records and saw the forest had last been thinned 10 years ago; it was time for another trim. He contacted Sailor and together they organized the harvest and learning experience consisting of five hour-long site visits by groups of 100 students each.

Upon arriving at the site, students were split into three groups. Stenvig demonstrated and spoke about the harvester, Department of Natural Resources Forester, Gary Willis, manned a forest management display and Baraga Industrial Education teacher, John Filpus, used his portable sawmill to cut lumber.

Two more stations waited back at school. Students could sit behind the controls of a John Deere Harvester simulator and attend a class to learn how satellites are used for mapping. Students on the logging site during lunch enjoyed hot dogs served by two volunteers from the Ottawa Sportsmen’s Club (OSC) and Superior National Bank. Food was donated by the OSC.

Baraga School Forest classes were in session only one day, but the site was busy for the whole week. Stenvig planned to begin on Monday and wrap the job on Friday.

“I offered up my time and equipment for charity; the UP Ahmed Temple Shriners and Simple Kindness for Youth (SKY),” Stenvig said. “We raised $24,000 for SKY. The Shriners will use the monies for assisting with transportation costs for families. They have 34 family caseloads now–they definitely have a need.”

The schools will receive stumpage, Stenvig said, and one load of wood products out of the forest will go to the schools Industrial Education program. Filpus and students will mill the lumber and build storage sheds, deer blinds, and more to purchase a table saw with a high-tech safety mechanism. Northwood Harvesting of Alston will haul the logs for free, Stenvig said. Bell Timber of Wisconsin, which marked almost 100 logs for use as future utility poles, has pledged a $1,500 match to SKY, and J.M. Longyear also has provided some free trucking. Thrivent has pledged a donation of $300 to the schools and Northern Oil of Baraga is also contributing.

“I told Potlatch Corp. in Gwinn that I’m doing a charity cut, and they’re paying extra for trucking,” Stenvig said. “Joe Yoder of Pelkie agreed to haul an undetermined amount for free and Nortrax of Escanaba brought me a brand new John Deere Forwarder to demonstrate on the site.”

Sailor donated his time for set-up, Russ Weisinger helped with the boundary line for the cutting, and Ray Hansen of L’Anse pushed the landing space and made a turnaround on Stenvig’s dozer. Plum Creek transported Stenvig’s dozer to the job site.

Ben Johnson of Pelkie is skidding the utility poles free of charge and Randy Rajala of Sidnaw donated his time on the forwarder to put the wood up. A-1 Toilets of Calumet even chipped in, providing an on-site portable commode at no charge.

“I’ve been getting help and also leveraging as much as I can go get more bang for the buck,” Stenvig said. “I’m like, triple-dipping here!

“The event allowed for a learning experience for the school’s students and brings to light the youth charities which are the recipients of the money earned along with the school,” he added. “It was a fun project with real benefit to the community and I was glad to be able to participate in it.

“The take away should be that we can do good things for our communities by managing our forests and harvesting wood products. Private forest landholders, our public forest landholders, as well as our corporate commercial forest landholders all can play a role in adding meaningful wealth to our communities.”

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