The Northland Pines School District has big plans for its school forest in the town of Washington, both for the health of the forest and  use of the forest for educating students. 

“The school forest has a mission to educate students about the environment, wildlife and forest management,” said Assistant District Administrator Scott Foster. “Over time, our school forest has fallen behind in a few of these areas and we are now moving in a much brighter direction.”

The school district is hosting a public informational meeting Tuesday, Aug. 14, starting at 11:30 a.m. on the school forest site at the new pavilion to share the plans and answer questions. The address of the school forest is 4000 Chain O’ Lakes Road.

Foster said a few teachers, administrators and community members came together to create a documented school forest plan.

“The plan focuses on how we will use the school forest for years to come and how we manage our forest,” said Foster.

The district worked closely with the Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) K-12 Forestry Education Program which is affiliated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and UW-Stevens Point to develop the school forest plan. 

Another big need was to look at the health of the school forest and for that the district turned to Jill Nemec, a forester with the DNR. Together they created a forest management plan. 

“Once a forest management plan was made for the next 50 years, bids were put out and a certified logger was selected,” said Foster.

The harvest plan was created to help create a healthy forest by removing aging and non-native trees, supporting wildlife and looking at how new growth will come.

“If you drive by the school forest, you will see that trees have been cut and that new trees are already growing,” said Foster. “This is the start of a new, healthier forest.”

All funds from the timber harvest will be put back into education at the school forest, according to Foster.

“With all the new opportunities being created for learning at the school forest, a few items have been purchased to enhance student experiences,” said Foster. 

A pavilion has been built for staff and students to have a classroom opportunity and shelter from weather. A parking lot for safe bus drop-off and turn-around was added. A new pit toilet was installed as well. Finally, staff will be given a budget for bussing to the school forest to work with their students.

“Our school forest is now moving forward to be a great place for trees, wildlife and educating students,” said Foster.

For more information on the harvest or to see the plan, contact Foster at (715) 479-4473, ext. 0201.