Conservation Corner: A day in the woods

By Sarah Garcia
Reader Columnist

On the second Thursday every May the quiet secluded Delay Farms in Careywood roars to life with the sounds of over a thousand students, volunteers, and natural resource professionals coming together for a day of hands on education. Ray and Fairy Delay were long-time champions of natural resource conservation in Bonner County, and beginning in 1982 they graciously opened their farm to the youth of Idaho for the chance to connect students with Idaho’s natural resource, timber and farming industries. There, they are connected with professional who pass on the skills necessary for managing our natural resources. The Delay’s sons, Ray Jr. and Gene, continue their parent’s legacy by once again hosting the 37th Annual Idaho State Forestry Contest. 

Participants in the 2018 Forestry Contest. Courtesy photo.

Now the big question, what is the Idaho State Forestry Contest? Students from second to twelfth grade are invited to attend this annual event. There are three competitive categories: rookie, junior and senior, as well as a non-competitive novice category. Participants in the competitive categories can compete as either individuals or as teams of four. Students rotate through six stations covering soil and water quality, tree and plant ID, silviculture and tree health, compass and pacing, cruising and weed ID and map reading. Each participant receives individual scores in each category and team scores are the total of four students combined scores. Teachers and coaches are provided with a learning handbook months in advance. The novice class also known as “a walk in the woods” is a tour with industry professionals through six stations where these students receive a hands-on introduction to the same topics as our competing participants. 

This event is more than just a day in the woods for Idaho’s youth. Top individual competitors in the junior and senior divisions walk away with cash prizes and can move on to compete at a national level. As students interact with natural resource professionals they are given the opportunity to see that conservation is as much about the responsible use and management of our resources as it is the protection of our resources for future generations. In recent years a career fair was added to the event to provide junior and senior students with an opportunity to get an overview of career opportunities with both private industry leaders as well as state and federal natural resource programs. Last year’s career fair was a popular stop on the course.  

The Idaho State Forestry Contest is sponsored by the Idaho Department of Lands; Bonner Soil and Water Conservation District; USDA’S Natural Resource Conservation Service and USDA Forest Service. These sponsors are responsible for the planning, registration, and infrastructure of this massive event with approximately 50% of the Forestry Contests instructors and volunteers representing one of these sponsors. Additional instructors and volunteers are made up of private timber and resource management industry professionals, teachers, coaches and parent chaperones.  We thank our private and industry donors whose continued financial support allow us to provide this full day event without cost to the students. 

This one-day event is a monumental undertaking that would not be possible without the generosity of the Delay Family for hosting this event and the tireless efforts of Karen Robinson of Idaho Department of Lands who has been the Idaho State Forestry Contest event coordinator for several years. The Forestry Contest Steering committee would like to extend our deep gratitude to all the volunteers, sponsors, teachers, and participants!  

If you would like to learn more about the Idaho State Forestry Contest please visit:; Would you like a birds eye view of this great event? You can see an overview of the contest here: If you would like more information about how to participate, volunteer or make a donation to continue the Idaho State Forestry Contest please contact Sarah Garcia, [email protected] or 208.263.5310

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