COULD IT BE that those of us who live, work and play in this natural resources paradise don’t fully appreciate the benefits of our own nonprofit environmental education center?

Trees For Tomorrow in Eagle River has been using field studies and classroom presentations to teach students and their instructors since 1944.

It has demonstrated the benefits of contemporary resource management to thousands while introducing first-time visitors to an area many will visit again — first as a vacationer and then quite possibly as a seasonal resident or a retiree.

Trees is proof that not all classrooms have four walls, for the thousands of kids and adults who experience their hands-on conservation education each year spend as much time outside as they do inside.

Its target audience is elementary, middle and high school students from Wisconsin, Michigan and northern Illinois. During the school year, groups of 30 to 90 students travel to the Trees campus virtually every week. More than 5,000 attend annually.

The Trees topic caught my eye last week as I opened a thick letter containing flyers for several upcoming events, including  a scholarship golf outing in June and a family-friendly Forest Fest in August.

The fundraising nature of some events reinforced for me the fact that this nonprofit school needs the support of its community, because it can’t survive on sponsorships and educational grants alone.

It seems like yesterday that I was seated in a big tent at Trees, listening to the stories of well-known adult residents who had been introduced to Eagle River decades earlier, during a three-day junior high school workshop.

That 60th anniversary celebration came in 2004 and they just finished celebrating 75 years, so there’s no disputing the popularity and longevity of this environmental education center.

Trees was founded for the purpose of reforesting northern Wisconsin, as well as educating landowners and citizens about the need for proper land management.

Somewhere along the line they transformed into an accredited school that offers not only student workshops but family nature program, adult skill-builder workshops, special events and career exploration for high school students.

Students learn that our society relies on natural resources for survival and quality of life. They learn that resources are limited, so proper management is necessary to sustain them.

They also learn about multiple-use management for the long-term benefit of everyone. Those uses include forest products, recreation, aesthetics, wildlife, wilderness and others.

Everyone has their own reasons for why they support this or that and, for the scribbler, Trees For Tomorrow struck a chord when it made it clear that logging was an important part of forest management.

Our forests represent the most diverse, most productive renewable resources the world has ever known. When forest managers do their job right, trees are a crop that can grow back after the harvest.

But that’s just the beginning. Timber management equates to jobs, high-demand wood products, creation of wildlife habitat and, oftentimes, improved growing conditions for the trees left behind in a selective cut.

Where Trees excels is with field-based programs that place people in direct contact with resources that support human needs. The programs teach knowledge and skills that lead to responsible lifestyle choices.

I believe the challenge for local residents is to remember that there is a specialty school right here that teaches these important messages, and especially to kids who might never be exposed to resource education on their own.

And because it’s located in Eagle River, there’s the added benefit of introducing 5,000 students every year to one of the most treasured outdoor recreation areas in Wisconsin.

If you want to help, go to the Trees website and put a couple of events on your spring and summer calendar. The annual Scholarship Golf Outing is scheduled May 29 at Eagle River Municipal Golf Course.

Forest Fest, scheduled at Trees on Saturday, July 25, is a free family-friendly event that celebrates all our forests have to offer.

Attendees learn about the heritage and legacy of Wisconsin’s timber industry, and modern-day techniques and equipment through demonstrations, exhibits and hands-on activities.

The event also features forest tours, chainsaw carving, wood turners, trappers, timber sports, children’s events and live music.

I’m pledging to work harder on supporting a unique environmental education center that does a lot of good for the greater Eagle River area and forest management throughout the Midwest.

It’s time we rekindle our appreciation for Trees, which educates youth and introduces thousands of new visitors to the North Woods every year.