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National 4-H Forestry Invitational

The first 4-H Forestry Invitational was held July 30-August 1, 1980 at Jackson's Mill State 4-H Camp, in West Virginia. Seventeen teenagers from three states participated in the event. Designed to develop leadership skills, and broaden knowledge of conservation practices and practical forestry skills, the five day session included both training and competitive events. The program was made possible through support from International Paper Company, sponsor of the 4-H Forestry Awards Program.

Forty 4-H members from six states - Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia - participated in the second annual 4-H Forestry Invitational, August 10-14, 1981, at Jackson's Mill State 4-H Camp, Weston, West Virginia. The five-day event made possible with support from International Paper Company, sponsor of the national 4-H Forestry program, included training and competitive events to help 4-H'ers develop leadership skills and broaden their knowledge of conservation and forestry management. A team of four Virginia 4-H members took top honors in the competitive events, which included tree identification, tree measurement, forest evaluation, insects and disease identification, compass traverse and a forestry bowl contest. In addition to the participating states, observers from Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Maryland informally took part in several field events, including cross cut sawing, log rolling, pulpwood and disc throws and tender-foot fire building. Highlights of the event included a forestry bowl contest, and rededication of the Jackson's Mill 4-H Camp as a National Tree Farm. Awards provided by International Paper, were presented at a luncheon by Emily Williamson, an IP representative.

The Spring 1982 National 4-H Council COURIER newsletter announced that the 4-H Forestry Invitational that year would again be held August 2-6 at Jackson's Mill State 4-H Camp, supported by International Paper Company, sponsors of the national 4-H forestry awards program. The invitational was expected to attract 4-H members from 15 states. A handbook of training had been revised and distributed to states by Dr. Allan Smith, 4-H-Youth, Extension, USDA.

In an article in the Fall 1984 National 4-H Council Quarterly, the following was reported: "The 5th Annual Forestry Invitational received formal approval for designation as a national 4-H event in 1984. More than 50 4-H members and 25 volunteers and Extension staff participated in this first "National" 4-H Forestry Invitational, July 30-August 2, at Jackson's Mill State 4-H Camp in Weston, West Virginia. The competitive event, sponsored by International Paper Company Foundation, which also sponsors the national 4-H forestry awards program, was attended by members and observers from 15 states who competed for honors in areas of tree identification and measurement, forest evaluation, insect and disease identification, and compass orienteering. A "Forestry Bowl," which tested the participants' knowledge of forestry and conservation, highlighted the event. Additionally, IP Foundation sent a video crew to produce a videotape for use in TV spots as well as providing the tape to states to promote the forestry event and orient youth coming to compete in the invitational. Bob Carroll, Manager, Logging and Fiber Supply, Land and Timber Group, IPC, represented IP Foundation at the final awards luncheon."

It is reported that nearly 100 4-H members, volunteer leaders and Extension staff participated in the sixth annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational at Jackson's Mill State 4-H Camp on July 29-August 1, 1985. The competitive event continued to be sponsored by International Paper Company Foundation.



Forestry Invitational participants in 1986 learn the characteristics of a healthy tree by examining the tree's bark. (from Summer 1986 National 4-H Council Quarterly)

Over 100 young people and their coaches representing 17 states gathered at the National 4-H Forestry Invitational at Jackson's Mill State 4-H Camp in 1986. State teams composed of four 4-H members and accompanied by at least one adult coach competed in the areas of tree measurements, forest evaluation, tree identification, insect and disease identification, compass orienteering and 4-H forestry bowl. First place team honors went to Florida with 1307-1/2 points out of a possible 1600; Alabama collected 1298; third place, Louisiana, 1287; fourth place, Virginia, 1272 points and fifth place, Georgia, 1252-1/2 points.

Teams of 4-H foresters convened at Jackson's Mill State 4-H Camp in West Virginia, once again, for the ninth annual National 4-H Forestry Invitation in l988. Sponsored by International Paper Company Foundation, reports do not indicate the number of participants nor number of states involved.

In 1989 more than 60 teen 4-H'ers from 17 states tested their skills at tree measurement, forest evaluation and other events during the 10th National 4-H Forestry Invitational, a 4-day event sponsored by International Paper Company Foundation.

During the early-August event, held at Jackson's Mill State 4-H Camp in West Virginia, boys and girls competed for overall team and individual awards in tree identification, insect and disease identification, compass orienteering, forest evaluation and tree measurement. Participants also took a written test in forestry and competed in the "Forestry Bowl," an academic contest of forestry knowledge. Participants learned first-hand the importance of managing and conserving woodlands as a source of products and for recreation. "We're trying to develop an appreciation of forestry, its economic effects and how decisions affect what happens in the woods," said Kurt Ray, a forester with International Paper who helped plan and manage the event. "We're making an impact," Ray added. "We're affecting these kids and we hope we're affecting the future of forestry in a very positive way."

Also in 1989, another 50 4-H members from 12 states joined the forestry event participants at Jackson's Mill for the first National 4-H Wildlife Invitational. The new program offered a range of learning experiences focusing on the concept that management for wildlife means management of wildlife habitat. In the competitive portion of the program, individual team members demonstrated their knowledge of management practices. Teams also worked together to develop a comprehensive wildlife management plan. A field trip to a national forest in the region, a variety of field activities and a quiz bowl rounded out the 5-day event. The International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies provided financial support for this new event.

From 1985 to the present, the history of the National 4-H Forestry Invitational has not been located, nor documented. (We need your help.)

From it's beginning in 1980 until 2007, International Paper was the sole sponsor of the National 4-H Forestry Invitational. Since 2007 the Invitational has been sponsored by a broad range of very supportive companies and organizations along with the USDA National Institute of Food land Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service.

Contemporary History

The National 4-H Forestry Invitation continues to be the national championship of 4-H forestry, held each year since 1980 at Jackson's Mill State Conference Center at Weston, West Virginia.

The 4-H foresters continue to participate in forestry skills and knowledge events over three days of competition, including: tree identification, tree measurement, forest evaluation, compass orienteering, topographic map use, forest insect and disease identification, forestry bowl and forestry written exam. Additional activities include local tours, campfires, and woodsmen skills fun competition.

the event is organized and conducted by a committee comprised of Cooperative Extension Service specialists and educators, and professional foresters from the U.S. Forest Service, the West Virginia Division of Forestry and forestry agencies from other state governments.

For information on the current National 4-H Forestry Invitational - results of past competitions and winners; information on sponsors; and the Forestry Invitation program, itself - visit the Forestry Invitational website at:

Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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