More than 200 Boy Scouts in the Andrew Jackson Council met at Hood Boy Scout Camp in Hazlehurst Feb. 11 for a workshop to help them earn their forestry merit badge.
Instructors from the Mississippi State University Extension Service, Mississippi Forestry Commission, Mississippi Forestry Association and Weyerhaeuser Company taught the scouts about forestry resources, stewardship and the forestry profession.
"Mississippi is two-thirds forest, so this training is perfect for our Boy Scouts," said Stephen Dicke, Extension forestry specialist. "These troops spend a lot of their time in the forest. It is important that they understand how the forest behaves and how to adjust the way they camp to fit the behavior of the forest."
Workshop sessions included information on the differences in wildfires and prescribed burns, tree identification, forest pests, forest regeneration, forestry products, and the job and tools of a forester.
"The forestry training in particular gives these boys an opportunity to see a profession in action and learn about the forests of Mississippi and the contributions the forest makes to their lives," Dicke said. "It is through Boy Scouts that I got interested in forestry as a career. We spent a lot of time out in the woods, and I started to wonder if I could get a job doing that."
Roderick Jones, an eighth-grade scout who attended the workshop, said he might be interested in pursuing forestry as a career.
"All the sessions were really good, and I learned more than I thought I would," Jones said. "I think being a forester would be fun."
But Boy Scouting is about more than learning subjects such as forestry and first aid.
"After my family moved to Jackson, I found out I had cancer," said Chris Gueydan, a scout parent and troop leader from Raymond. "I wanted my boys to be in scouts because I wanted them to have the positive male leadership that being in Boy Scouts provides if something were to happen to me. Boy Scouts instills confidence, perseverance and self-reliance. Merit badges also expose kids to all kinds of career paths."
Scouting also builds future leaders.
"Workshops like this give the boys the opportunity to learn from people who do this every day," said Steve Zachow, troop leader. "It gives them a first-hand look at what it means to be a forester. While teaching them about forestry and other careers, scouting also provides them a chance to be around men who set good examples."
"Scouting provides the opportunity for these kids to take on responsibility. Although adults provide guidance, we let the kids manage as much as possible," he said. "They use those skills the rest of their lives. It’s incredible to see them mature and become leaders."
Dicke said trees and boys are both worth the investment.
"A managed forest is worth a lot when it’s mature," Dicke said. "When you spend time cultivating and nourishing your forest in the early stages, you’ve got something really valuable in about 20 years. Trees and boys are very similar in that sense."