For the second year in a row and the third time in four years, the Pickens County 4-H Forestry Senior Team has won the Alabama State 4-H Forestry Invitational. The team will represent Alabama at the 2016 National 4-H Forestry Invitational in Weston, West Virginia July 31 through August 4.
Members of the team include Katie Poland, Chloe Abernathy, Camryn Randolph and Ethan Koon.
Pickens County teams have represented Alabama on the national level a number of times. In 2013, a Pickens County team just missed the national title, placing second with the two highest scoring individuals in the nation. The 2010 team placed eighth at the national competition.
Pickens County 4-H Forestry Team coach Sam Wiggins said, “I expect us to be toward the top. The competition is so intense at nationals that it gives our team members the opportunity to gain valuable experience.”
Pickens County teams also had two junior teams compete in the state invitational. The Pickens Oak team won first place in the junior division and the Maple team placed third in junior division.
Emily Nichols, 4-H specialist in natural resources with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said Alabama teams work hard to prepare for state and national forestry competitions. The events require rigorous study in topics such as tree identification and measurement and using a compass for navigation.
“Team members must be able to identify forest pests both by appearance and the type of damage they cause in trees,” she said. “Site evaluation is another aspect of the contest. Team members must demonstrate how well they can evaluate a site to manage a forest based on the goals of the forest landowner.”
The Alabama 4-H Forestry program encourages youth to develop an understanding of trees, forest management and environmental issues. It also provides learning experiences that help individuals develop skills to become better managers of forested land.
“This competition fosters an appreciation of Alabama’s abundant natural resources as well as allows young people to learn practical forestry skills,” said Nichols. “Some young people have decided to pursue forestry as a career because of their participation in the 4-H Forestry Invitational.”
Alabama teams have won the National 4-H Forestry Invitational 18 times since the competition began in 1980.