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She uses love for trees in volunteer work

March 30, 2009|By JANET HEIM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Trees have been a constant in Judith Niedzielski's life. From her favorite climbing trees when she was growing up in upstate New York to her seasonal favorites in the yard of her Leitersburg home, Niedzielski said they have added much to her life.

She has childhood memories of her father tapping sugar maple trees and making maple syrup. Her own memories with her three sons, who are all grown now, include planting many of the trees in the Niedzielskis' yard.

As chairwoman of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board, Niedzielski and her fellow board members are pleased to be celebrating Maryland's Arbor Day Wednesday by giving away 1,800 white spruce seedlings to all Washington County third-graders. This is the first year of the giveaway through the local board.

The seedling giveaway was a program by the Maryland Forest Service but it was discontinued several years ago due to budget reductions. The 10 to 12 members of the board felt the program was too important and worked to reinstate it this year.

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"People who received seedlings as children, it made an impression. It made a difference in how they view trees and the environment," Niedzielski said.

The seedlings being distributed this year were purchased from a state nursery and will be bagged for distribution by county Forest Conservancy District Board members.

While considering college majors, Niedzielski, 72, said she was interested in forestry, but back in the 1950s, not many women chose that field. The other stumbling block for her was how math-oriented the forestry program at Syracuse (N.Y.) University was, and Niedzielski said she was not a strong math student.

Instead, she went to the State University of New York in Oswego, where she studied education, with a minor in industrial arts.

She and her husband of almost 45 years, Herman, moved to Washington County in 1969 when he took a job with the then-fledgling NBC25. Judith Niedzielski taught for Washington County Public Schools until retiring in 1998.

She said she taught "many different things in many different schools," including math, science, social studies and history. Teaching about nature and the outdoors are her favorite topics.

She also helped with Boy Scouts when her sons were involved in Scouting, which is where she put her skills in industrial arts to good use. Her oldest son earned the rank of Eagle Scout. The Niedzielskis also have five grandchildren.

As a teacher, Niedzielski became aware of the Washington County Forestry Board through various planting projects with her students. When one of the foresters asked her to join, it only took one meeting in 1998 before she knew the volunteer organization was a good fit for her.

"I found a niche," said Niedzielski, who has chaired the board for several years.

Each county in the state of Maryland has its own forestry board. Much of what the board does relates to educating the public, Niedzielski said.

In the past, it also sponsored several county high school students' attendance at a weeklong summer camp in Garrett County, Md., where they were introduced to issues of ecology, conservation and college programs in those fields.

Niedzielski also is on the Washington County Foster Care Review Board and is a eucharistic minister at St. Ann Catholic Church, where she is a member.

More information about the forest board is available at http://www.wcfb.sailorsite.net/WCFB/HOME.html.

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