New CIO focuses on conservation and recreation

The Virginia Woodsmen hope to inspire the University community to conserve, but also to participate in recreational timbersports


Tobi Addis, president of Virginia Woodsmen Team, works on improving local forests. 

Courtesy of Joseph Nelson

The Virginia Woodsmen — a newly approved Contracted Independent Organization — is working towards promoting conservation and timbersports. Some may think the idea of conserving forests and making a sport out of timber-related activities seems counterintuitive, but that is not the case to its members. 

“That’s the thing about conservation,” second-year College student Tobias Addis said. “It is not about complete protection, it is the safe and calculated harvesting and protection.” 

Although the use of trees for sporting events may seem like a waste of natural resources, in some cases, the removal of trees can actually promote the overall flourishing of other trees. Addis compares tree removal to hunting in the sense that a certain number of deer must be harvested each year in order to prevent overpopulation and depletion of natural resources. 

Addis and co-founder Ethan Crocket decided to form the club with a group of outdoor-minded friends they met in their first-year dorms. The founders realized they all agreed on the importance of nature, how much they enjoyed spending time in the woods and that they wanted to make sure conservation was recognized in the community. They also enjoyed watching timbersports on television, which is why they incorporated that aspect into their organization. 

Technically Addis is the sole remaining founder and Virginia Woodsmen Captain, as Crocket has decided to step down and become a standing member of the organization. Addis and Crocket are joined by Vice President Berkley Toufas who is responsible for landing sponsorships and stepping in for Addis whenever necessary. 

Sponsorships are important the group, especially since the Virginia Woodsmen was accepted as a CIO late in the school year, and consequently missed funding deadlines and will not able to receive funding until next year. They said these sponsorships are necessary to buy different types of saws, safety gear and other equipment required for both the sports and service aspects of the organization. 

There are currently 19 members on the Virginia Woodsmen’s roster but Addis said he hopes their status as a CIO will give them more exposure, ultimately attracting enough members and funds to be able to compete in timbersports at the collegiate level in the spring of 2019.

“I grew to like the ax and chopping up the wood,” second-year College student Jackson Kosmacki said in an email. “So when I heard about Woodsmen, I was intrigued by the prospect of chopping up some more wood and in a competitive spirit.”

As a child, Kosmacki was the family member tasked with chopping up wood from fallen branches and axing trees that needed to be cut down.

The group is currently getting by with donated and personal power tools to aid the parks around Virginia. However, they will need more specific models to compete in the STIHL Timberwood Series. 

The STIHL Timberwood series is a nationwide professional and collegiate lumberjack competition sponsored by STIHL, a German based chainsaw company. At the collegiate level, athletes use saws and axes to participate in four different disciplines — the Underhand Chop, Standing Block Chop, Single Buck and Stock Saw. 

“As far as the importance of official CIO status goes,” second-year College student Berkley Toufas said in an email. “It gives our organization legitimacy so that if we were to try to partner with a state or local park [...], we would have credentials to show that we are not a for-profit group.” 

Toufas values the group’s status as a CIO because aside from it giving them legitimacy when partnering with local and state parks, it makes potential sponsors more willing to trust them. Eventually, the Virginia Woodsmen would like to obtain adequate equipment to be able compete in the Timberwood series, however, the CIO’s current focus is service and conservation. 

The Virginia Woodsmen has reached out to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and sent a letter to all state parks close enough to be serviced by the Woodsmen. The group has also partnered with Holiday Lake State Park, and the James River State Park has requested their assistance in clearing trails to prepare for an upcoming triathlon in April. The Virginia Woodsmen is a nonprofit group which requires that all service work they do is strictly voluntary. 

“Not only is service important to us, but when we serve we want to let people know why we are going to these parks and serving,” Addis said. 

The Virginia Woodsmen is working to expand by having open meetings where group members are encouraged to bring friends. The organization hopes to inform and educate about the importance of forestry conservation and sustainability by having a “conservation minute” at the end of every meeting. 

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