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Kara AleksichLife with the Junior Forest Wardens ROCKs!
(aka- Richmond Outdoors Club for Kids!)
Kara Aleksich, FIT
(Thanks to the ABCPF and Kara Aleksich for granting permission for this article to be reprinted from the BC Forest Professional.)

Being part of a kids’ club that is based on an appreciation for our forests offers some outstanding opportunities. There are opportunities for advocacy, passing on knowledge and—my favourite— opportunities for being 10 years old again and absolutely mesmerized by life.

I was first introduced to the Junior Forest Wardens (JFW), and forestry in general, during the Christmas tree harvests that occurred annually at Witherby Tree Farm in Gibsons, BC. Witherby was established by Tom Wright, RPF(Ret), who passed away in 2004. Tom was an accomplished RPF whose resumé included chief forester of Canfor, dean of forestry at UBC and 1961 president of the ABCFP. He established this tree farm because he believed all foresters should get out into the woods and practise ‘dirt forestry.’ He also believed that “there is no finer profession than this one which has to do with trees.” Tom was a firm advocate for the forest profession and of passing along his knowledge and passion for forests to others.

One of the people Tom passed his forestry knowledge and passion on to was his son, Bill, who orchestrated the annual Christmas tree harvests at Witherby. For many years, Bill would invite the local JFW club to participate in this weekend-long harvest. Because it was always held during the last weekend of November, the weather would inevitably be dreary. And so, about 30 kids and a handful of parents and volunteers would put on raingear and hard hats and head out under the power lines to drag the trees to the roadside. We would all help pile the trees onto an old flatbed pickup truck and when we were finished, we all loaded into the truck with the trees and bounced back to the landing.

It was during one of those cold, rainy days, while bouncing along on the back of the truck, that I decided forestry was the gig for me. And so off to BCIT and later UBC I went. After graduating two years ago I started, with the help of some very dedicated people, a JFW club in Richmond. We meet once a week during the school year with an ultimate mandate to ‘have fun!’

Some of the different weekly activities we host include:

  • Building fires and roasting marshmallows
  • Holding a plant identification scavenger hunt at the Richmond Nature Park
  • Building nesting platforms for robins
  • Making weather stations
  • Baking tree cookies
  • Racing to see who is the quickest and most accurate at taking tree measurements

Our club has also adopted a local Richmond park and thanks to the generous invitation of the Powell River JFW club, we’ve embarked on two year-end campouts in Powell River. For me, one of the most rewarding moments of the camping experience occurred during a ferry ride to Powell River when one of the boys at the camp ushered me to the ferry’s top deck to point out the view of the forest and ocean and exclaimed, “look how perfect it is!” Earlier, he told me that he’d never travelled outside of Vancouver before.

I looked to men by the names of Tom and Bill to show me the wonders of forestry. And on those cold, rainy and buggy days in the field or on those office days when everything had to be done yesterday, I think of the kids with their raw sense of wonder for the natural world, and I am reminded that I have an amazing job.

While attending school, Kara was employed by TerminalForest Products as an engineering summer student. After graduating from UBC in the Forest Resource Management Program, she delved into the consulting world with Timberline Natural Resource Group and currently works in Timberline’s ecology department. At the time of writing, Kara was furiously studying for her upcoming RPF exam. She credits the JuniorForest Wardens as a large contributing factor for getting her into this predicament.

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