A decades-old tradition for forestry college students, Southern Forestry Conclave is an action-packed event that brings over a dozen schools together to compete.
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana–A towering, 20-foot wooden pole with a smooth, slippery surface seemed impossible to conquer when the 62nd annual Southern Forestry Conclave kicked off its pole-climbing competition last weekend.
One student after the next attempted the climb, but some couldn’t get their feet to stay on the pole at all. Others struggled to make it half-way, their bodies visibly shaking from the effort. One fell off. A few finally made it.
Then came a student from Stephen F. Austin University who had clearly done this before. He shimmied up the pole, slapped the sack of chalkdust on top to signal timekeepers to stop their watches, and whipped back down before his climbing time could even be announced: he had crushed the pole climb in an incredible 4.685 seconds.
His classmates let out cheers of triumph, waving a massive school flag above their heads as he was pronounced the winner. But it was only the beginning. Still to come were competitions in axe and knife throwing, swaing, pole felling and even log birling, in which contestants try to outlast each other while running atop a spinning log in a lake (shown below).
Conclave, featuring timber sport events reminiscent of a lumberjack competition, is an action-packed tradition that has lasted more than 60 years. This year’s event on March 21-24, 2019, attracted 250 college students from 15 universities across the South. LSU’s Society for American Foresters Student Chapter hosted the event at LSU’s AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden.
The competition kicked off Friday with technical challenges relating to forestry, like photogrammetry (examining and interpreting aerial photos), tree diameter estimation, tree identification and compass and pacing (using a compass and chain to locate a specific point). Then came the physical competitions:
- Crosscut sawing
- Axe throw
- Knife throw
- Chain throw
- Log chop
- Pole fell
- Log rolling
Rayonier was proud to be a sponsor of the event, passing out sunglasses, sunscreen and other supplies to the students and talking forestry with them. We cheered on several former Rayonier interns as well as some future interns who will be joining Rayonier this summer.
When the results of all the competitions were in, it was announced that Stephen F. Austin came in first place overall, followed by the University of Arkansas at Monticello in second and Clemson University in third.
We can’t wait to see everyone again at next year’s conclave!