Thinking green

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 22, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Sixth graders from Demopolis Middle School took a day off from class to participate in the first day of the Forestry Awareness Now, or FAWN, program at Foscue Creek Park. Sixth graders from around the county will participate in the program today and Thursday.

The annual program has been going on for more than 10 years and is done in part from financial assistance from the Alabama Forest Forever Education Grant. The year&8217;s program is expected to educate 446 students from all over Marengo County.

Students, who will wear different colored t-shirts for their group, will visit each of seven stations that provide information on forest management, wildlife habitat, tree identification, timber harvesting and controlled burning, Project Wild, soils and forest products.

The major contributors to the program are members of the Alabama Forestry Commission, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries and representatives from each of the paper mills, who come and offer their time and expertise at each of the different stations.

John Williams, wood and fiber coordinator for Rock-Tenn, said the program is important for the children of Marengo County, most of whom have family ties to the industry.

Aprille Cooke, with Westervelt Company, helped to present a program educating the students on controlled burning. In her presentation, she and fellow presenter Jamie McKinnon try to teach children that burning can be an essential part of maintaining timber and lands, as long as proper safety precautions are observed.

At the tree identification station, foresters Billy Carlisle, Jim Dixon and D&8217;Mar Moore with the Alabama Forestry Commission gave students a guided tour of one of the trails at the park. As part of the tour, students were given a pamphlet with information about different indigenous species to the county.

But perhaps the most popular station was with Chris Cook and Jeff Makemson with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, where they showed students an array of wildlife. With native species like the corn snake, the two helped to show students there are multiple species of snakes in the state, only a few of which are poisonous.

Other stations included assistance from Duane Andrews with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Project WILD, and interactive station being manned by Martha Wallace.

Adele Anderson has helped to coordinate the program for the last several years. In addition to applying for the grant every year, Anderson said the program is also funded by proceeds from the Forest Forever car tags purchased in Marengo County.

These funds purchase t-shirts and drinks for all of the participants and chaperones. The rest of the people that work on the program are all volunteers.

Anderson said the stations are set up in such a way that students will gain a greater understanding of the importance of forest and natural resource management. Another important focus of the program is to teach the students about the wise use of land and conservation of natural resources.

When asked about why the program is designed for sixth grade students, Anderson said it seems to be a good learning age for students.