AP NEWS

Forestry Expo puts natural resources in the spotlight

May 9, 2019

When the Family Forestry Expo first started, some of the trees in the Ronald Buentemeier Educational Forest off Trumbull Creek Road were just saplings.

Today, 30 years later, they’re well on their way to being majestic providers of shade.

The idea of the Expo came from an extension forester for Montana who came from Portland. At the time, Portland was busing kids out into the woods for an inclusive educational program, recalled Buentemeier, a local forest industry leader who spent 43 years with F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Co. before retiring in 2007.

Timber interests, the U.S. Forest Service, the state and a host of other forest stakeholders wanted to do the same thing in the Flathead Valley, but without the public having to travel a great distance to get to it.

Twenty acres of F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Co. property was deemed a great place to have the expo, as it had a creek running through it and it also had just about every tree growing on it that lives in the valley, save for a couple of alpine species.

Like in Portland, educational stations were set up, with talks on fisheries, forest management, fire, native plants, ecology, wildlife, archeology, backcountry horse packing and a host of others.

“The whole principle was to have various stations where people would talk about their disciplines,” Buentemeier said.

People could then draw their own conclusions on forest management.

Years went on and a grandstand was added with a roof (it always seems to rain that week). Events have changed over the years. For a few years there was a demonstration on helicopter logging.

Justin Kaber, the assistant fire management officer on the Tally Lake Ranger District, remembers coming to the event when he was in fifth grade. A logger dropped a tree precisely on a hat, he remembered.

The event features an extensive curriculum for fifth-graders and teachers.

That first year, about 200 kids from area schools attended the event, noted Deb Starling, who along with Buentemeier, were founding interests.

Today, more than 1,300 students from 29 schools and one home-school group, stretching from Eureka to Charlo, will visit the expo this week, noted Ali Ulwelling of the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

School kids go through the educational stations and some will tour the Stoltze mill.

The expo is made possible through the involvement of over 30 diverse organizations such as local service clubs, forest industry, government natural resource agencies, conservation groups, professional societies, local businesses, many interested individuals and numerous local donations.