Founded in 1996 by UMass students, the Woodsy Club currently has over 85 members, about 10 of whom are from Amherst College. “We want to learn about nature and understand it enough so that we won’t need to take things from outside in there to survive,” said Charney. “We can work with nature, take what’s in the woods, eat it, live with it.” Members can not only start a fire, but can also make milkweed ropes, clay bowls, arrowheads and knives.
The club also seriously pursues animal tracking, mostly in the College’s bird sanctuary, and general knowledge of the woods. “By listening to the birds, you can tell which animals are around,” said Charney.
Woodsy members are able to track bobcats, foxes, moose and other wild animals by following the prints they make in the sand near rivers or the snow. “We learn really in-depth stuff like the moods of the animals, from their footprints,” said Charney.
The Woodsy Club is also part of a larger organization called Keeping Track, which identifies the wooded areas that are essential to the ecosystem and should be protected from deforestation. “The activists mean well, but they can’t really tell which woods are essential,” said Charney. “Some of the woods are very important for animal migrations; without those, the ecosystem would not survive.”
As part of its broader objective-to share their knowledge with other people-the Woodsy Club will be holding “Woodsystock,” a nature festival, this Saturday on the Freshman Quad. A campfire will be lit in the middle of the quad and about 15 to 20 people will be teaching wilderness survival skills, as well as lead groups of people into the woods to study the trees. “We want people to understand nature and live with her without harming her,” said Charney.