Funding helps Okanogan Valley students study Tripod Fire effects

TONASKET – The U.S. Forest Service recently announced that it had awarded more than $122,300 to four Pacific Northwest national forests to support conservation education programs, including almost $11,000 for high school students in low-income areas of the Okanogan Valley studying the effects of the 2006 Tripod Fire.

The funding is intended to support conservation education programs that provide children opportunities to experience the outdoors, learn about nature and build a lasting commitment to conservation.

“The value of expanding our programs for children must not be underestimated,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Young people are tomorrow’s stewards of our public lands and we have a duty to help them develop a lasting connection and passion for conservation of America’s

great outdoors.”

Local funding will help the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest’s Tonasket Ranger District host GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), which emphasizes proficiency in math and science. Funding will be used specifically for an effort called, “Tripod: A Landscape for Learning” where underserved students learn from natural resource professionals as they continue monitoring Tripod Fire effects over the next two years.

Lightning ignited the Tripod Fire in July 2006 on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, burning more than 175, 000 acres in heavy timber and stands of insect-killed trees. The altered landscape offers a prime opportunity for students to monitor fire’s effects, allowing them to watch changes that occur over time in a post-fire landscape.

GEAR UP partners include the Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Central Washington University, Wenatchee Valley College, Americorps, Okanogan Valley Land Council, Methow Conservancy, Northwest Learning and Achievement Group, and The Nature Conservancy.

Participating school districts include those in Oroville, Tonasket, Omak and Pateros.

Since 2006, natural resource professionals involved in GEAR UP have fostered students’ understanding of ecological processes. The program encourages students to consider natural resource careers while providing valuable data to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests on how the post Tripod Fire landscape is changing over time.