As the only two-year college in Maryland to offer a major in forestry, Allegany is in a unique position to offer a quality, hands-on, practical educational experience for students, according to forestry program director Marie Miller. Miller herself attended Allegany for the first two years of her education before transferring to West Virginia University to complete her degree in Forest Resource Management.

“When I heard we got it (the award), I was so excited,” she says. “We’re a small school with a small budget, and it’s been a while since we’ve been able to purchase new chain saws. Everything we have now is gas-powered. One of the things I’m most excited about is getting battery-powered saws. During our lab time, students actually carry out most of the tree care activities on campus, so hopefully, now we’ll be quieter and less disruptive while classes are going on.”

According to Miller’s application, students at Allegany learn how to safely and efficiently operate chain saws, as well as proper pruning and climbing techniques. “They also learn how to operate heavy equipment, merchandise logs, and develop a strong work ethic,” she adds. “We have excellent networking opportunities when industry representatives come to campus to teach or recruit. And we have an extremely high job placement for our graduates.”

Because of COVID-19 and the school being physically closed, Miller hopes to make up some of the students’ practical experience time during the summer sessions, when they do an actual timber harvest and practice felling, limbing, and bucking. “Unfortunately, we’re also missing a lot of employer interaction we’d normally be having at this time of year,” she notes. “One company, though, Davey Tree, has offered to do an online IPM (integrated pest management) lab this semester.”

With the new Stihl chain saws, all-in-one sharpeners, pole saw, and PPE that Miller is ordering, she says students will be better prepared to carry out their mission of tree care across campus as part of attending a designated Tree Campus USA. And last fall, about 15 students plus staff took part in Saluting Branches at Rocky Gap Veterans Cemetery, located about 15 minutes from campus. “I can see that becoming a long term commitment,” she says.

As for the future of Allegany’s forestry program, Miller says she hopes to add a Tree Climbing II class and possibly a one-credit-hour course in landscape plant species identification. She would also like to incorporate a nationally recognized chain-saw certification program into the curriculum, so students have proof of a formalized skill set when they graduate.