FFA Forestry Career Development Event

This event was hosted by Stronghold Inc., a non-profit organization established by the late Gordon Strong. Stronghold is located at Sugarloaf Mountain and on adjacent land near Comus and Dickerson Maryland… The gracious hosting was spearheaded by Russ and Travis Thompson, Stronghold managers… In addition to hosting the event Russ and Travis participated in the training and testing of FFA members and provided some of the demonstration and testing materials.

Participants performing tree identification

The activity was managed by Terrie Shank, MD FFA Executive Director and took place at the Western Overlook area on Sugarloaf Mountain in Southern Frederick County. These Forestry Related events consisted of tree identification, timber measurement, timber cruising which consists of identifying harvestable timber and estimating the potential yield in board feet of lumber.. In addition, chainsaw maintenance, Forestry/Logging tool identification and a team essay oral presentation on forest disorders such as pest and disease were part of the activities.

Participants were FFA youth and advisors from the Western Maryland region. Members of the Frederick County Forestry Board assisted in certain of the events by identifying and marking trees for tree ID, identifying and marking trees for timber measurement and assisting in the grading of the essay oral presentations.

One of the tools used by the participants is the Biltmore Stick. The Biltmore stick was developed at the Biltmore Estate near Ashville, NC in the 1890s . Then, Gifford Pinchot, future first chief of the US forest service, and Carl A. Schenck were hired to restore 125,000 acres of land around the Biltmore estate to a healthy forest. This was one of the first efforts to use scientific methods of forest management. Carl Schenck was the developer of the Biltmore stick. This stick looks similar to a yardstick and is used to quickly get an estimation of the board feet of lumber available from a standing tree. It has scales to measure diameter at breast height (DBH), four and a half feet, of the tree and the number of 16 logs that could be obtained from the log from stump height up to the size and condition level useable at a sawmill. Based on these measurements, other markings on the Biltmore Stick are used to determine the quantity of board feet obtainable from a sample acre of timber. This measurement, along with other techniques using a wedge prism are utilized to quickly cruise timber.

Other measurements can be obtained by more accurate methods including measuring the diameter using a tape and the height using a clinometer. A clinometer is an optical instrument that among other things indicates height based on a known base length of a triangle and the angle of inclination.

Another simple device used to measure basal area in woodland is the wedge prism. Basal area is the cross-sectional area of a tree at breast height and provides an indication of the productivity of the land, and the growth rate of the trees when one or multiple basal area estimates are compared.

The wedge prism is commonly used in forest management. It can be used to estimate quickly the basal area per acre. It distorts the light and shifts the position of a tree trunk when looked at through the prism. Those trees that the trunk appears disconnected are not included in the count. Those connected are included and those that are just touching are included in every other count. The prism is used from a fixed location by looking at trees at a certain distance within a 360 degree scan to obtain a tree count. Certain of the trees will meet the criteria to be included in the count or not counted. The number of “in” trees is then multiplied by the basal area factor of the prism used to determine the basal area per acre.

This FFA event was statewide competition and a prelude to possible participation in a nationwide competition. While heat and humidity were factors, the two day event was enjoyed by the participants.

July 13-14, 2017