A member of the Thunderbird firefighting unit helps an SD70 student learn techniques for putting out a wildfire during a National Forest Week event at McLean Mill in September 2017. (KARLY BLATS/ AV News file photo)

A member of the Thunderbird firefighting unit helps an SD70 student learn techniques for putting out a wildfire during a National Forest Week event at McLean Mill in September 2017. (KARLY BLATS/ AV News file photo)

FORESTRY WEEK: Forest renewal, sustainability are 2021’s lessons

Volunteers are bringing the woods to classrooms with interpretive activity kits

This year’s National Forest Week theme is ‘Our forests—continually giving.’

In a period of time when Canadians are more divisive than ever, forestry officials nationwide will spend the week of Sept. 19–25, 2021 highlighting how the country’s diverse forests connect our everyday lives.

Forests represent beacons of renewal, resilience and hope for the future, says the Canadian Institute of Forestry. The forest sector is considered an essential service, which has been demonstrated in coastal British Columbia over the past 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic. Industry has not stopped, but adapted in a pandemic atmosphere.

In the Alberni Valley, San Group has opened two mills, purchased another specialty mill that had been closed and built a remanufacturing plant in the span of three years. The Huu-ay-aht First Nations in partnership with Western Forest Products are working toward economic reconciliation in the Vancouver Island forest sector. And the Alberni Valley Community Forest truly put its mark on “community” during COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders.

National Forestry Week began in the 1920s to raise awareness for fire prevention. The event has evolved over the years. In the Alberni Valley, students from Grades 4–6 historically spent a day during National Forest Week at McLean Mill National Historic Site, learning about types of trees, fish habitat, wildfire suppression and how First Nations in the region use cedar for different things such as weaving or carving.

In some cases, the information students learn at these events help inform later decisions to get involved with forestry as a career.

In the past two years, with restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, members of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and partner organizations have had to be creative in how they share information on forestry with students. For the past two years classroom kits have been assembled and speakers have brought interpretive activities to classrooms virtually.

“Pre-COVID we did do McLean Mill and we would get 300-400 kids,” said registered forest technologist Ryan Price. Price is one of a number of volunteers in the Alberni Valley who are working to find unique ways to bring their information about forestry to the students.

“We would do the same thing: interpretive stations like stream riparian habitats, wood products, firefighting; when the steam mill was running we had those guys put on a little demonstration.”

Price is hopeful a return to an in-person gathering at McLean Mill will be possible for future National Forest Week events. “We’re looking forward in future years to potentially bring that back to students or community-based events.”

What does the forest give to you? Share your thoughts online at www.cif-ifc.org/national-forest-week or use the #nationalforestweek hashtag on social media for more.

Alberni Valleyforestry