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November 6, 2012

New facility aimed at continuing state's rich history of forestry

BUTTERNUT, Wis. -- Tucked in the forests of north central Wisconsin, Butternut - population 375 -and its k-12 school district share the state's rich timber history. Now thanks to the work of a teacher, her school and her students the connection to forestry and timber will continue into the future.

Joined by local state elected officials, school staff, and donors, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp dedicated a new outdoor classroom and student forest, Friday, Nov. 2, before members of the community and nearly half of the 200, K-12 student body.

"This is wonderful. There are so many unique aspects of this," Stepp said, noting that not only are students "learning aspects of the forest," but they are also learning from the team work it took and the other opportunities that were created in opening the classroom, including for building trades students.

"It allows students to have more outdoor education experiences right out here in our forest," said Dawn Ertl, who has taught science at Butternut for 13 years and applied for the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board (exit DNR) grant for the project.

Nearly $30,000 was provided by WEEB to the school to create the indoor/outdoor classrooms and an additional $20,000 of time, labor and materials was provided by the local community.

School forests are unique to Wisconsin having started in 1928 near Crandon, Laona and Wabeno.

Of the state's 424 public school districts, 210 of them have school forests, and of these 210, Butternut was one of six to be awarded a WEEB School Forestry grant in 2011.

In 2011, WEEB awarded about $472,000 in environmental education grants.

School lands total about 25,000 acres and are located in 68 of the 72 counties within Wisconsin. In addition to the forest adjoining the classroom, Butternut has a "working" 40-acre forest.

The 18-feet by 38-feet environmental education classroom will also be used teach across the curriculum, including English and creative writing and art. Built by the school's building trades class, its green features include solar panels and a composting toilet.

A trail begins a few feet from the building and is lined with signs that identify trees by their common and Latin names, along with what they are used for.

Some of these students may one day walk out of the classroom and out of the school's forests for a job in the industry.

According to a 2011 report by The American Forest and Paper Association: Wisconsin is number one among states with forestry jobs employing 56,533 workers and in economic value of wood and paper products shipped at a combined to of more than $16 billion dollars.

"Wisconsin and the forest products industry have been linked since the days of settlement when Wisconsin forests supplied lumber that built the great cities of the upper Midwest. The paper industry also grew along with Wisconsin and today, more than 100 years later, we remain a leader in forest based jobs and forest products," Stepp has noted. "Productive, well managed forests also provide abundant wildlife populations, clean air, clean water and a variety of recreational opportunities,

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Harter, DNR Northern Region public affairs manager - 715-635-4242

Last Revised: Tuesday, November 06, 2012

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