The Colorado State Forest Service was busy planting seeds this month… the kind that germinate into ideas and grow critical thinking skills — maybe even career paths — long into the future.

Our staff headed to Divide in mid-July to meet up with 10 high-school students from around Colorado at Camp Rocky. The annual week-long camp, presented by the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts and partner agencies, lets high-school students explore and test their skills in a variety of natural resource fields including forestry management, rangeland science, soil and water science, and fish and wildlife management.

While rain came down outside, Camp Rocky students worked indoors on a forest management plan for a hypothetical 400-acre forest with Danielle Ardrey, right, the conservation and education coordinator at the Colorado State Forest Service. The activity, called “If You Were the Boss,” is part of Project Learning Tree’s “Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers.” Photo: Donna Davis / CSFS

Tristan Fletcher, a senior at Skyview High School in Thornton, returned to the camp for a second year, supported by $350 in CSFS funding assistance that allowed one student to attend for free. Fletcher plans to pursue a career in natural resources, with a goal to become a game warden and study Wildlife and Wildlands at Front Range Community College. At Camp Rocky this year, he served as Junior Leader for forestry and joined other students for a forest thinning project at the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Tristan Fletcher drags a felled tree from a hillside during a forest thinning project at the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp. The effort was part of the Camp Rocky experience that gives students hands-on experience in natural resource careers. Photo: Danielle Ardrey / CSFS

The CSFS, in addition to managing forest health and serving as the state’s wildfire mitigation experts, also serves as the state’s forestry outreach and education agency.

A Camp Rocky student helps clear cut trees during a forest thinning project. Photo: Danielle Ardrey / CSFS

So, the Camp Rocky students got to try their hands at skills CSFS foresters use daily, like conducting a forest health inventory and creating a land management plan for a hypothetical 400-acre forest.

Danielle Ardrey, the CSFS conservation and youth education specialist, and Donna Davis, CSFS urban and community forester, led the group in a variety of activities from Project Learning Tree’s “Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers.”

The CSFS strives to give more students like Fletcher the opportunity to learn about green jobs and the variety of work that can be found in the state’s natural resources fields.

These seeds of ideas we plant today, engaging these future leaders, will help grow the foresters and scientists of tomorrow, charged with caring for the health of our forests for decades to come.