MEXICO — Some forestry students at the Region 9 School of Technology are drawn to logging by family history, others by working outdoors.

“It’s not for everyone,” 27-year forestry instructor Marc Dupuis said. “But some are naturals.”

Among them are those who have the work in their blood, thanks to a family history of logging.

“My entire family has done it, and it’s just a fun thing to do,” said Bill Simmons, a Mountain Valley High School junior who is in the second year of Dupuis’ forestry program.

He’s not sure whether he’ll continue the family tradition or attend a community college to study truck driving.

Josh Billings, a junior from Telstar High School in Bethel, is in some ways following in the footsteps of his father, Scott Billings. The elder Billings was in an early forestry class taught by Dupuis. He now works at a local paper company.

Part of forestry students’ education involves learning how to use and sometimes repair wood harvesting machinery such as skidders, loaders, chain saws and bulldozers.

They also learn to make — and use — Biltmore sticks, which help estimate the number of board feet in a tree.

Students also learn the species of trees frequently harvested, and safety during the first few weeks in the classroom.

“Safety, safety, safety,” Dupuis said. “Sometimes I have to break bad habits with the use of chain saws and skidders.”

For the past couple of years, some first-year students cleared brush and cut wood on White Cap for the nonprofit Mahoosuc Land Trust. Frequently, primarily second-year students, cut woodlots for individuals or corporations. The money gained from timber harvesting goes into the student activity fund or to repair Region 9 logging equipment. Nonprofit work can be applied to the community service requirement mandated by two of the vocational school’s sending high schools.

Although most of Dupuis’ students have been boys, several students have been girls.

“They do just as well as the boys,” Dupuis said, adding that sometimes they are better at taking safety precautions.

Trevor Desmond, a junior at Dirigo High School, plans to study diesel mechanics, another field that forestry has helped him prepare for.

“I like being outdoors, particularly with other people who like the same thing,” he said.


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