Forestry Field Day set for Saturday

Published 6:46 pm Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Forestry has always been a science. With improvements intechnology, it’s becoming an exact science.

Landowners, loggers and others involved in forestry’s many fieldscan learn how to harness that technology Saturday at the LincolnCounty Forestry Association’s spring Forestry Field Day, whereMississippi State University extension agents will demonstrate howto use GPS (Global Positioning System) units for land management.The lecture and exercise will begin at 9 a.m. at the home of Homerand Lynn Richardson on Friendship Lane, off Zetus Road.

“It’s a great way to do all types of calculations on your land,everything from planting trees in an area to marking off propertylines,” said Lincoln County Extension Director Rebecca Bates.

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Anyone interested in attending the field day needs to register withthe extension office by calling 601-835-3460. There is no chargeand a limited number of Garmin GPS units will be provided for theexercise, though those with their own equipment are encouraged tobring it.

MSU Extension Forestry professor Dr. Stephen Dicke, the scheduledspeaker for field day, said attendees would be broken into groupsand sent across the Richardsons’ property on GPS scavenger huntsand waypoint checks to learn the technology. Though field day’sexercises should be fun, the practical application of thetechnology is quite useful, he said.

“I’m not fully convinced cell phones are a blessing, but I’mconvinced GPS units are,” Dicke said. “You can walk the acreage onyour property and it will give you within a tenth of an acre howmany acres are in that property. If you’re tying to mark thecorners of your property on a map, these things can be extremelyaccurate.”

GPS technology can help landowners measure distance, lay out plotsfor logging or other uses and accurately create paths for roads.Recording the GPS coordinates of a position deep in the woods willalso allow the landowner to quickly return to that position forfurther study without guesswork, wandering or getting lostaltogether.

Dicke said the margin of error on modern GPS units has grownslimmer and slimmer, with the technology now able to take the userwith 10 feet of the desired position. Handheld units usually costbetween $200-$400, but basic models can be bought for $100.

Lincoln County forester Howard Stogner said the MississippiForestry Commission uses GPS in all its duties.

The most important function of GPS for the average landowner, hesaid, was the technology’s ability to build maps. A variety of freeand retail software exists that will allow users to connect theirGPS unit to a computer to download the information, and the popularmap-of-the-Earth program Google Earth will accept informationdirectly and outline accurate maps that can be stored andprinted.

“You’ll have your own maps you can look at right on your computer,”Stogner said. “GPS is not hard to learn.”

Stogner also pointed out the recreational uses of GPS technology,namely geocaching, a worldwide treasure hunt where GPS users trackdown hidden containers and take and deposit trinkets for the nextuser, logging their names in the process. Geocaching Web states there are more than 1 million activecache sites across all seven continents.

“That’s one of the first things we did when we got our GPS units tolearn what where we were going,” Stogner said.