2014 Scouts Merit Badge Day

The Frederick County Forest Conservancy District Board and Maryland DNR Foresters have completed another Forestry Merit Badge Day for the Scouts. The day dawned with rain falling and after a long night of watching the weather a decision was taken to undertake the project despite the weather. Over eighty Scouts and parents participated and everyone seemingly enjoyed the day.

Department of Natural Resources Foresters, Hailu Sharew and Mike Kay manned their Watershed Management and Forester Stations respectively. Hailu explained the techniques used to manage a watershed for healthy forest and clean air and water. He explained specifically how this was done for the Walkersville Watershed where the event was held. Mike Kay explained and demonstrated several techniques used by a Forester to measure and quantify the forest environment. Among other things Mike explained how to identify a specific member of the Red Oak Tree Family and how to properly measure it. These things were interesting and will hopefully encourage some future Forester.

Forester Hailu Sharew explains watershed management

Forester Mike Kay discusses the duties of a forester

Forestry Board Members Heather Montgomery and Jim Arnold provided instruction and group participation in Ecology. They explained the interaction between the forest and its plant and animal inhabitants. The Scouts were also busy inspecting under rocks for forest dwelling plants, insects and salamanders. These were found on the damp forest floor and are an indication of a healthy forest dwelling for these creatures. They also explained the benefits of having a healthy forest which retains and slows rainwater runoff providing this habitat and aiding in providing clean air and water. Heather and Jim did an excellent job of instilling knowledge and getting the participation of the Scouts in this activity.

Jim Arnold and Heather Montgomery discuss ecology

A requirement of the Forestry Merit Badge, one of the oldest Merit Badges, is to learn to identify fifteen species of trees. Explaining how to do this and getting the Scouts to participate, obtain samples and annotate their workbooks with the information obtained was a task performed by Andy Driscoll and Vince Perrotta. They presented a total of 20 tree species and explained in detail how to identify them using basic techniques as to classification of evergreen or deciduous and the characteristics of the tree bark, leaves, structure and habitat. Another valuable lesson was which are native and which are invasive species. An explanation was provided detailing how invasive species are a definite threat to the environment by destroying the habitat and preventing the growth and propagation of native species. They also explained how the wood products are used and the benefits to wildlife and the environment of each species of tree they presented.

Andy Driscoll identifies a flowering dogwood

Vince Perrotta explains tree identification methods

At the "Wood" station, Forestry Board members Steve Thrasher with assistant Tom Anderson provided scouts with hands on identification of 14 tree species through close examination of slices of each tree. Four sets of these tree 'cookies,' a set for each of the 4 picnic tables used by the scouts, were cut about 2 inches thick by Steve for the event, and were about 6" to 14" in diameter including the bark. The scouts brainstormed about uses for each type of tree, value to wildlife or in plantings, and on what things are made from the wood. Discussion with the scouts also included timber harvesting and sawmill operations and wood pilings and their use to support piers, buildings and even city areas as in New Orleans or Venice. The most interest seemed to come from having scouts stand on boards supported at the ends to demonstrate breaking strength of the boards either lengthwise with the wood grain or across the wood grain.

Steve Thrasher and Tom Anderson discuss wood

Tree cookies

Forestry Board member, Claude Eans and Scout leader Melissa Udbinac coordinated activities between the Scouts and presenters. Melissa documented the participation, provided the scheduling and kept the activities running on schedule.

Towards the end of the activity rain completely ceased, the sun came out and the Watershed was cleaned up and all secured. Another successful Merit Badge Day was accomplished.

Article and photos by Claude Eans