UC Berkeley celebrates 100 years with Plumas County
Though it is still dwarfed by the giant trees surrounding its Meadow Valley camp, the University of California at Berkeley’s forestry program is celebrating a milestone that puts it in the same category with the ancients: its 100th anniversary. The program and the wild nature of Plumas County have been intertwined since the program’s very beginning and continue to co-produce ongoing generations of foresters.
The College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley formed its forestry program in 1914 and immediately connected with Plumas County. This connection led to the university obtaining a special-use lease with the Forest Service to use a 40-acre parcel out in Meadow Valley as a summer camp for aspiring foresters.
Since then, the university and Plumas County have harbored a special relationship. New flocks of students have made their way up to Plumas County each year, and many of them decided to return and make the area their home.
Shortly after forming the forestry program, UC Berkeley was issued a special use permit from the Forest Service to use 40 acres of Baker Forest in Meadow Valley as facilities to give students hands-on experience in the field of forestry.
While work was being done on the premises, the university held the summer camps of 1915 and 1916 in Quincy. In 1917, the camp was moved to the facilities in Meadow Valley, where it is presently located.
In 1949, the Meadow Valley Lumber Co. started to clear cut 80 acres right above the camp. The area being logged held the camp’s main water supply. Along with a group of locals, camp employees convinced the university to purchase the 80 acres. Since then, the area has been used as an outdoor research lab.
Life at camp
“One thing I’ve learned is summer camp is way better as an adult,” gushed camper Alani Worden, one week after arriving in Meadow Valley.
Wardon, along with 36 other students, rolled up to camp mid-June for an intense two-month summer semester. Students bunk in rustic dormitories and cabins, and spend their days alternating between studying in the classroom and interacting with the forest.
Students are in session five to six days a week, but generally have the weekends free. They start their camp experience getting acquainted with Plumas County’s forests in a three-week Sierra Nevada ecology course. Next, they learn to use forestry tools, maps and sampling methods.
Once basic skills are perfected, students delve deeper into their work and study silviculture, utilization and forest management and assessment. With such a small group of students and such an intense curriculum, the campers grow into a tight-knit family of sorts.
According to UC Berkeley’s forest management specialist, Dr. Richard Standiford, though the tools used in the field have changed over the last 100 years, the experience the students get at the camp is essentially the same.
“Berkeley has always had a multidisciplinary approach involving much more than just timber,” commented Standiford. “Wildlife, water, aesthetics and recreation have always been important, but I think it’s gotten more important as we progressed through the last 100 years.”
One aspect of the camp and the program that has changed dramatically has been the diversity of students. When the program started 100 years ago, all of UC Berkeley’s forestry students were men. This year’s group of campers, on the other hand, is two-thirds women.
The camp receives money each year from the Schwabacher Endowment, which covers lodging and food costs, and helps keep student fees as low as possible.
Connecting with the community
The UC forestry camp has been an integral part of the community for the last 100 years and continues to be so. The camp not only brings in a large group of students each year who put money into the local economy, but employs two full-time workers and four seasonal workers, as well as multiple teachers with the university.
The camp is also known for its community outreach. Along with housing Cal students, the forestry camp is the temporary home each year for Plumas County sixth-graders that participate in the annual Outdoor Ed Camp. The forestry camp also recently opened its gates to the Unpave Youth Retreat for Quincy’s youths earlier this summer.
The magic of the camp has attracted numerous campers to the area not just to visit but to live. Plumas County is home to multiple UC campers who attended the camp and then decided to move permanently to the area. Several couples in Plumas County met at the camp, and decided to return after graduating from Berkeley and raise their families here.
Logging and foresting techniques that originated from studies done at the camp have become commonplace techniques all over the country. The camp has changed not just how Plumas County looks, but how all the forests in America look.
“Students who have been to forestry camp have gone on to become leaders within fields of forestry and natural resources,” proudly stated the U.C. Center for Forestry’s research stations manager Rob York. “They span the wide forestry world- government agencies, consultants, NGO's, and industry sectors. The faculty and staff at UC work hard to keep it going. It has been great to have it in Plumas County.”
Now, with 100 years behind it, the forestry program and camp are looking at the next 100 years. Each year, a new set of forestry students brings with it new potential. The camp is hoping the next 100 years will be just as memorable.