Forty students from Dryden High School in northwestern Ontario had a chance to participate in some valuable hands-on learning in May. They learned about the responsible management of natural resources as part of this year’s three-day Dryden Conservation Camp.
Now in its 60th year, the annual camp is the result of a collaboration that includes Dryden High School, the local school board, Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Domtar’s Dryden Mill.
“It’s a perfect opportunity for [the students] to understand the forest and the resources we manage, the stakeholders, and the First Nations that play a role in all of that,” said Dianne Loewen, Domtar’s coordinator of forestlands and public affairs.*
During Dryden Conservation Camp, students measured and probed trees as part of their lessons about forestry. They also waded into waist-deep water and caught aquatic specimens in nets for study.
The lessons covered the many aspects of forestry, including harvesting and renewal, seedling production, inventory, soils, and fire management and protection. The firefighting session proved especially popular.
“[The students] are always interested in what types of jobs they can get and what they have to do to become a firefighter,” said lead instructor Penny Ratushniak. “They love being able to manipulate the equipment … and learning a little bit more from the firefighters.”
Participants also went through the process of developing a resource management plan, which requires balancing the needs of diverse groups such as hunters and fishermen, tourism operators and forestry companies.
Domtar provided the resources for the program’s organization and development, including professional foresters who acted as the instructors and mentors.
A Program of Influence
The program’s goal is to increase awareness of resource use and the challenges that are inherent in resource management. It also provides an overview of important sustainability concepts.
“Forestry is about taking care of the forest,” Loewen said. “[The students] learned that it’s not about cutting down the trees for no reason at all.”
Over the years, many of the Dryden Conservation Camp’s participants have gone on to pursue careers in resource management. Graduates of the Dryden High School Conservation Course have become foresters, biologists, ecologists, engineers and many other professionals working in fields related to resource management.
*All quotes in this article first appeared in a radio broadcast on the CKDR Sunday News Magazine “Northwest Monitor.”