CLEARWATER COUNTY, Alta. — The timber industry is a big part of the Alberta economy, and the public is able to get a close look at it by visiting the Des Crossley demonstration forest.
The 160 acre site was established in 1951 by forestry researcher Des Crossley in Clearwater County in west-central Alberta.
The intent was to develop a research site to study how to manage lodgepole pine, a common stand in the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
“We want to maintain it in its natural state as much as possible,” educator Pamela Learmond told a tour group Aug. 22.
The site is a partnership between Alberta Environment, the University of Alberta, the Canadian Forest Service and the Environmental Education Society.
A large share of the work at the demonstration forest is to educate students from grades 4 to 12 about an industry worth $11 billion in direct and indirect revenue each year to the province.
Working through a program called Inside Education, students visiting the forest learn about tree and plant identification, conservation, multiple land use options, wildlife habitat, bear awareness and fire suppression.
They learn about careers in forestry and can discuss care and harvest of a forest that covers 93 million acres of the province.
There is a small clear cut site to show what it looks like and how an area is restored after the trees are removed. Visitors can also see the lingering affects of a major forest fire, which swept through the area 150 years ago.
The average lodgepole pine is 80 years old before harvest, and students learn how to take core samples to find the age of a tree.
They are also shown how to measure a tree’s circumference, diameter and height. They learn to identify fir, spruce and pine. A pine has needles in pairs, spruce have single, square, sharp needles and a fir has flat, fragrant needles.