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Pericles sabbatical assists N.C. Forest Service

Brian Chandler volunteers his time with a local fire department. But for the month of April, the Elon University HVAC mechanic learned how to control brush fires that promote healthy forests, and to monitor logging companies that work near water supplies.

Chandler spent time working for the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources in his home region of Caswell County, just a few miles north of the university, as part of a Project Pericles service sabbatical.

And in that role he did a little bit of everything, including:

• Cleared forest beds with controlled fires, which in turn promote healthier foliage and stronger wildlife habitats;

• Monitored streams to ensure that logging companies complied with environmental laws that protect waterways;

• Dressed as Smokey the Bear for school children across the county (which he said was his favorite responsibility);

• Used GPS to plot precise land boundaries, a measurement used to reimburse property owners who plant trees as part of state reforestation projects.

It helped the volunteer with the Yanceyville Fire Department understand how forest fires spread – and how to stop them before they grow out of control.

For instance, Chandler said, he learned how to bulldoze small trenches around an area in flames. Doing so eliminated several feet of leaves and brush – fuel for the fire – similar to a moat around a castle.

“The Forest Service improves the environment,” he said. “They’re looking after the land. If loggers go in an pollute streams, we take care of it, and make them clean it up.”

The assistance couldn’t have come at a better time for the Division of Forest Resources. With the start of fire season quickly approaching, where dry weather combine with increased outdoor activity and lightning strikes, clearing debris front the forest floors in Caswell County is taking a high priority.

“Caswell County has a high forest management workload dealing with preparing management plans for landowners, tree planting, and implementing cost-share programs along with other areas of forest management,” said Steve Thompson, a Caswell County ranger, said in a letter of support for Chandler in his sabbatical request. “The staff in Caswell County is overwhelmed with the workload that we have and any assistance will be of great benefit to the landowners and citizens of Caswell County.”

Ford was one of three sabbatical recipients this spring. Marianne Janssen in the Department of Physical Therapy, and Dianne Ford, who works in Belk Library, also received funding through Project Pericles. 

The sabbatical, open to any university staff member with two or more years of service to Elon, is eligible to apply for funding to spend up to a month away from normal job responsibilities.

For Chandler, the opportunity to serve others dovetailed nicely with his hobbies outside of work. “I’m a wildlife fanatic. I love to hunt and fish,” he said. “That’s my passion.”

Eric Townsend,
6/2/2008 1:36 PM