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Retired teacher continues environmental work

August 18, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY

marlob@herald-mail.com

As a young girl 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.

Niedzielski, who now lives in Washington County, is channeling that fervor into her work as the chairman of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board.

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

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During those years, she worked with children on environmental projects, including plantings. She learned about the forest conservancy board when a man 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 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," he said.

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 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.

Niedzielski, who is married with three sons, lives in a rural setting with a lot of trees, and she loves it. Even though she is retired, she still will substitute teach on occasion, but only at Fairview Outdoor Education Center near Clear Spring, which has a forestry curriculum.

The forestry board has planted an arboretum at the school so students can learn firsthand about native Maryland trees.

The boards were established in all 23 Maryland counties and Baltimore City in 1943, and include volunteers who want to promote forest conservation on private lands.

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

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