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Her love of nature is deeply rooted

August 12, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

As a young girl growing up in upstate New York, Judith Niedzielski said she spent a lot of summers around the Finger Lakes region where her interest in the conservation of nature became a passion.

Now living in Washington County, Niedzielski is channeling that fervor into her work as the new chairman of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board.

Niedzielski, 68, retired from teaching school in 1998 after nearly 40 years in the classroom, first in New York state and then in Maryland.

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During those years, she worked with children on environmental projects including plantings. She first learned about the forest conservancy board when a man came in and spoke to one of her classes about the organization's work.

"I didn't even know there was a board for a long time," she said. "I came to a couple of meetings in the early 1990s and then I was invited to join."

Three of the members of the current board are tree farmers, including Fred Cornett, who said the board spends a lot of its energy on education. "We sponsored three campers this summer with full tuition at the Natural Resources Careers conference in Garrett County."

Cornett, a 12-year member of the board, said Niedzielski's experience as an educator makes her a valuable member of the team.

"Back when I first came on the board, I had just become a certified tree farmer," Cornett said. Management of trees is vital to ensure that desirable trees are given enough room to thrive while less desirable trees are harvested.

Residents with an interest in nature can walk the Indian Springs nature trails, Cornett said, and learn about many species of trees, bushes and vines that thrive in Maryland.

Niedzielski said she has served as a state regional representative to the state organization and admits she has learned a lot from her experiences. One thing she learned is that not all problems with the careful management of trees are rural - there are urban environmental concerns, too.

Married with three sons, Niedzielski lives in a rural setting boasting a lot of trees and she loves it. Even though she is retired, she still will substitute teach on occasion but only at the Fairview Outdoor School near Clear Spring.

"There is a forestry curriculum there," Niedzielski said. The forestry board has planted an arboretum at the school so the students can learn first hand about native Maryland trees.

Established in all 23 counties and Baltimore City in Maryland in 1943, the boards are made up of volunteers like Niedzielski and Cornett who want to promote forest conservation on private lands.

In Washington County, 112,585 acres, or 38 percent, is forested. The county tree is the black walnut. The board has a contest under way to find the largest tree of each species in the county.

The organization, which has about 10 members, meets the first Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. except in August. Anyone interested in attending is asked to call 301-791-4733.

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