In the arboriculture world, there is often no substitute for climbing a tree.
The women who make up the Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop should know this. They take care of trees for a living and often reach the top the old fashioned way.
“Tree growing is a profession,” said Bear LeVangie, who founded WTCW with his sister, Melissa LeVangie Ingersoll. “He’s not a person with a pickup truck and a chainsaw cutting trees.”
Less than 10 percent of tree-climbing arborists are women, and WTCW’s efforts have recently gained the attention of network television. The CBS show “Mission Unstoppable” featured the La Vangie sisters, along with WTCW head coach Rebecca Seibel, during a shoot on November 18 in the town of Onalaska.
The three women, all residents of Holmen, demonstrated how to climb and descend a tree safely and use power tools to properly prune branches.
“Mission Unstoppable” airs Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. on local CBS affiliates and is part of the network’s Dream Team educational / informational programming block. Now in its third season, the show profiles women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professions and aims to introduce teenage girls to careers traditionally dominated by men.
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The show is hosted by Miranda Cosgrove and directed by Cosgrove and Oscar-winning actress Geena Davis.
“When young women watch our show, they think, ‘There’s a job that I never thought I could do,’” said Ilana Gordon of Litton Entertainment, the show’s producer.
Founded in 2009, WTCW is a national, women-led organization dedicated to teaching women how to climb trees with an emphasis on sustainable tree care and maintenance. WTCW has educated nearly 1,000 women ages 16 to 74.
“Our students are women who have the desire and the appetite to go out with friends and to challenge themselves,” said Seibel.
Learning to climb is essential for an arborist, as many trees cannot be accessed by a truck with a hydraulic bucket elevator.
“There can be many reasons why a machine can’t access a tree,” said Melissa LeVangie. “Tree climbers only need a rope, a harness and their own safety equipment.”
The three women featured by “Mission Unstoppable” are passionate about arboriculture and the role trees play in the ecosystem, ranging from the carbon dioxide / oxygen cycle to wildlife habitat to mitigating stormwater runoff. .
“My role as an arborist is to teach people about tree magic and what they do for all of us,” said Bear LeVangie. “They offer much more than embellishment. “
“Without trees, we don’t live,” added Melissa LeVangie.
The women appreciated the opportunity to promote their profession in front of a national television audience. Melissa Le Vangie said WTCW and the show’s producers were able to access a “fantastic location” near Holmen for the filming. She said working with the show’s producers was “amazing”.
“They were very organized and very methodical,” she said.
Bear LeVangie said the crew of “Mission Unstoppable” were “incredibly gracious and friendly”.
“The experience was incredibly unique because we’ve never been filmed like this before,” she said.
“Mission Unstoppable” films nearly 90 segments a year, and the producers expect the WTCW segment to air in late winter or early spring.
Melissa LeVangie hopes the segment will encourage more women to enter science and the outdoors. She said that women who complete WTCW training gain both skills and confidence.
“Each person left the workshop standing and confident in who they are,” she said.
“When young women watch our show, they think, ‘There is a job that I never thought I could do.'”
Ilana Gordon, Director of Production and Partnership Activation at Litton Entertainment, which produces “Mission Unstoppable”