From forest to table: High school students get a lesson in Montana's timber industry

Logging in Montana
Posted at 7:52 PM, Oct 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-25 12:29:58-04

DEER LODGE — For about a decade, area high school students have been visiting a sawmill in Deer Lodge and forests in the area to learn about Montana’s timber products industry, but for the first time, a hopeful fourth-generation logger got to join his dad on the assignment.

"I want to be the fourth generation in my family to just keep the legacy going," says Carter Lorengo as he stands next to his dad near hundreds of columns of neatly stacked lumber.

Fifteen-year-old Lorengo has been heading to the woods with his father and grandfather for as long as he can remember. But on this day, he headed to the woods with his father—a logger by trade—and almost three dozen classmates from Anaconda and Philipsburg.

"It’s probably one of the most rewarding days that I have, I get to have annually, taking our high school students, show them about the careers and the science-based management we do on the ground sustainably," says Bryan Lorengo, a co-owner at KLM Contracting based in Anaconda.

"I feel like not a lot of kids know about forestry. I know growing up I didn’t get a lot of teaching about forestry and it’s good to understand it’s historical in Montana, our forestry industry," says Kyle Harrington, a forester with Montana's Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Harrington says the program is a way to help kids understand the connection between the forest and the timber industry. Kids plopped down on a steep hillside above machines as they stripped branches off of trees destined for the lumberyard.

"It’s a very, kind of a unique situation in that you get to watch the entire process from logging all the way through to the creation of two-by-fours," says Sean Steinebach of Sun Mountain Lumber in Deer Lodge.

Steinebach is a forester and part of the lumberyard's outreach team. He says he also wants to introduce kids to the various job opportunities available in the timber industry, one of the top five industries in Montana’s economy.

"You know, we’re all consumers of this product. I think it’s good to let the students get a perspective of where it comes from and you know if you go into a lumber yard and buy a 2x4 or 2x6, you know. Where was that harvested at?" says Lorengo. "I’m third generation in this business and hopefully we can sustain that well into the future."