Students at Crook County High School interested in forestry and natural resources will get to work with a new tool next year, as the school has bought a small sawmill.

The Lucas radial sawmill arrived at the school earlier in June and can be used with logs up to 6 feet in diameter and 20 feet long, according to a Crook County Schools press release. The sawmill and attachments, including a slabber, cost the school district about $18,000, according to Lisa Keown, Crook County High School’s natural resource teacher. The money used to buy the tool comes from Measure 98, which provides funding for Oregon school projects focused on college and career readiness.

However, Prineville no longer has an active lumber mill, and the curriculum Keown is designing around the school’s sawmill is more focused on studying forests and natural resources.

“My intention is not necessarily to produce mill workers,” she said. “It’s a way to connect with what they learn, making connection between forest and product, while being able to serve the community.”

According to Keown, the sawmill fits nicely with her forest management class. Students in her class visit forests about 15 times a year — mostly the Ochoco National Forest nearby, but occasionally sites on the west side of the Cascades — where they conduct studies and learn about forestry and logging. Keown said, with the sawmill, students will now learn which wood is used for logging and why, as well as the math skills needed in the lumber industry. Students in middle and high school will eventually use the sawmill to produce lumber for projects that can be used around Prineville, such as birdhouses and coffee tables. The lumber will also be used in Crook County High’s construction and geometry class.

“They’ll get to see it from the forest to the classroom, then to the community, where whatever they make will be used,” Keown said.

Ryan Cochran, Crook County’s career and technical education coordinator, compared the new program to “farm-to-table” eating, calling it “forest-to-products.”

“Being able to see that whole process from beginning to end is super important for them to learn,” he said.

Students won’t chop down trees themselves, Keown said. She said Prineville-based Kriege Logging will donate logs for students to use. The class will also visit active logging sites and talk to professionals in the industry.

According to Keown, small sawmills are perfect for harvesting smaller timber, which can help reduce fuel for forest fires. The sawmill will also work well with juniper trees, which are overpopulated in Central Oregon, she said.

“If people have trees that they want to get rid of, there’s a place where we can take them and make something usable out of them,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7854,