USS students participated in a national tree-planting day on May 9. The field trip was organized by the Barkley Community Forest, Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, Raincoast Education Society, and Central Westcoast Forest Society. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Tofino and Ucluelet students plant over 1,000 trees on field trip

“It was the first time I ever done it so I thought it was pretty fun.”

Sixteen Ucluelet Secondary School students planted 1,000 Western red cedars in the Barkley Community Forest on May 9.

The field trip was part of the larger initiative dubbed the ‘TREE project’, which stems from Canada hosting the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, in June 2018.

In a national collaboration between the Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association and the Government of Canada, about 100,000 trees are destined to be planted in 14 Canadian biosphere reserves to offset some of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with holding the G7 Summit.

“Three-thousand people are coming from all around the world to meet [for the G7]. By moving all to Quebec for one-and-a-half day they are producing 15,000 tonnes of carbon emission,” said Biosphere Reserve Coordinator, Prudence-Elise Breton. “We are working with 14 Biosphere Reserves across Canada to plant trees that will live for 50 years or more to offset this 15,000 tonnes of carbon emission.”

The fun day out in the forest began with a bumpy bus ride to the Barkley Community Forest on the Raincoast Education Society field school bus.

Once onsite, the students were welcomed to Toquaht traditional territory by Denis Hetu.

“The Western red cedar is a First Nations commodity that was used a lot before contact. We would harvest it, which meant fall it, and then plank it so you get wedges and take planks of it and build things with them. Everything from shelters, to nets, baskets, rope… rope was a big one. And canoe building of course. Mostly cedar was used by my people,” said Hetu.

After the introduction, site manager Cam Forester gave the students a brief tree planting overview before sending the kids onto the plot with shovels and seedlings.

“Here we are planting the next generation of forest. It will likely be harvested in 70 years,” said Forester. “Get the shovel in a little bit deeper than the root plug,” he demonstrated. “And than the motion that a tree-planter will do hundreds, maybe a thousand times a day, is they’ll take the plug, cradle it in their hand, slide it along the back of the shovel which gives them a nice firm and slippery surface, remove the shovel, straighten the tree and then I personally like to boot kick the hole close.”

For the majority of the students, tree-planting on a huge site like the Barkley Community Forest was a whole new adventure.

“I didn’t really know how to plant a tree,” said Toby Theriault.

Cedar Forest agreed.

“I didn’t know it was so specialized,” said Forest.

Rowan Mayes said he planted over 50 trees throughout the day.

“It was the first time I ever done it so I thought it was pretty fun,” he said.

Jason Sam, USS Nuu-chah-nulth education worker, helped co-ordinate the event alongside staff at the Clayoquot Biosphere Reserve and the Central Westcoast Forest Society.

“The kids did great. They got their physical education for the day. They got more than their daily 30-minutes they need. There were lots of kids laughing and singing. Most of them warmed up overall and had a good time,” said Sam.

The Group of Seven (G7) is an informal grouping of seven of the world’s advanced economies consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The forum offers an opportunity for G7 Leaders, Ministers and policy makers to come together each year to build consensus and set trends around some of today’s most challenging global issues. The European Union (EU) was first invited to attend the G7 in 1977 and the President of the European Commission has attended all of its sessions since 1981.

Themes for the Canada’s 2018 G7 Summit include: advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, working together on climate change, and investing in economic growth that works for everyone.

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