Alberni Valley students learn about the past and present of forest industry

Summer Seirmacheski of John Howitt Elementary shows off a pair of fish caught in a nearby creek. ELENA RARDON PHOTO
Students watch an old time logging demonstration at McLean Mill. ELENA RARDON PHOTO
Payal Lal of Wood Elementary hefts an axe. ELENA RARDON PHOTO
Scarlet Willa of Ecole Alberni Elementary wields a hose during National Forest Week activities at McLean Mill on Wednesday, Sept. 25. ELENA RARDON PHOTO
Carys Howland of Wood Elementary School wields a chainsaw during National Forest Week activities. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Hundreds of Alberni Valley students headed out to McLean Mill for National Forest Week to learn a bit about the forest industry.

The event is led each year by the Alberni Professional Forest Network, a volunteer network of professional foresters. On Wednesday, Sept. 25, McLean Mill hosted 320 Grade 5 and 6 students from schools across the Alberni Valley, with parents and volunteers bringing the number closer to 400 people.

RELATED: Swedish visitors celebrate steam donkey at McLean Mill—without the steam

“This day is all funded by sponsors and volunteers, at no cost to the students,” explained Jim Proteau, acting district manager for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. “There are volunteers from all over the Island here today.”

This year’s National Forest Week theme was “Canada’s Forest: Diverse Outdoor Classrooms.” The Port Alberni event focused on educational activities related to forest management, incuding presentations on wildfire response, wildlife, engineering, fish and invertebrates, First Nations forestry and steam restoration. The afternoon also featured special presentations from the JJ Logging Show and—for the first time this year—a presentation from Strategic Natural Resource Consultants about drones.

Proteau said the drone station was particularly popular with the kids.

“Drones are becoming a technology that is used a lot more in the forest industry,” he said. “It’s a newer technology that’s in the last five years become commonplace in the industry.

Drones are used for environmental assessments, to determine how well forests are regenerating. They can reach remote areas that sometimes cannot be reached by foot.

Wednesday’s National Forest Day event, Proteau explained, shows the way that the forest industry has changed and evolved over the years.

“We’ve got the JJ Logging Show, and then we’ve got the drones,” he said. “It ties in where the whole industry has gone. It shows that forestry is all-encompassing.”

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