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Expanding Our Roots

Festival of Forestry Fall Teacher Tour Visits BC's Southern Interior

Submitted by Gregor Campbell- St. Margaret’s School, Victoria, BC

Have you ever participated in a professional development activity that did not make efficient use of your valuable time? You know that can happen for teachers from time to time. Change that completely by joining the next teacher tour sponsored by the Festival of Forestry. I was fortunate to attend the October 22 - 25, 2009 bus tour, which travelled from Vancouver up through Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna, Princeton and Manning Park.

My colleagues were 15 other like-minded teachers and professionals, mostly from the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. We spent four exhilarating days listening, doing and learning with top-notch forest professionals. Be ready to spend lots of time outdoors in all kinds of weather and have every minute of your day maximized. The atmosphere was informal, and we travelled about in a comfortable coach bus. Our driver, Fearless Phred, shared stories of his experiences in the forest industry while whisking us from stop to stop expediently.

Why would you give up four days? It is fun, it is free, you will stay in nice hotels each night, you will meet committed teachers of all backgrounds from K - 12 schools and you will be given a hard hat for the tour, which you will wear each day and keep when the tour is over. You will acquire teaching kits, information for lesson plans and even some ‘swag’ before you head home. Safety is the top priority, and the respect and congeniality you will experience are inspiring to say the least. Did I mention that all this is free?!

We were accompanied by three excellent and experienced guides in the personalities of Dwight Yochim (Kelly McClokey & Associates), Tristan Banwell (UBC Faculty of Forestry), and Steve Finn (British Columbia Institute of Technology). They gave an entertaining ‘running commentary’ as each day unfolded so we understood what we saw and they answered any questions we asked along the way.

In Kamloops, we toured the Provincial Air Tanker Centre for fire management, where staff dispatch crews and organize everything when fires are to be suppressed in the province. They focus on initial attack on fires predicted or threatening to exceed the capabilities of ground resources, support action on fires where specific attainable objectives are in place and holding action on fires where a delay in ground forces is anticipated. We moved on to the adjacent Kamloops Fire Centre, operated by the BC Forest Service Wildfire Management Branch, where we learned how wildland fire fighting is done in south-central BC. We met rap-attack personnel – firefighters who rappel from helicopters into remote locations – and saw how they suited up while hearing about the realities faced when fires become huge. Kelly Johnston, the Community Protection Coordinator with the City of Kamloops, toured us around the Rose Hill area forest, an urban interface where a raging fire came within 100-metres of an expensive subdivision last summer. This is a serious concern now that housing is spreading up into the headlands and hills around Okanagan cities.

The next day brought a levelling experience when Kerry Rouck of Gorman Bros. Mill in West Kelowna (www.gormanbros.com ) related how very close this lumber mill came to burning down on July 18, 2009, when a wildfire came within 50-metres. The 80-employee crew fought the fire for 36 hours and did not charge the company (but they saved their jobs!). Hearing about the Glenrosa fire and subsequent mudslide surely startled my Geography 12 class. Gorman Bros. is touted as going beyond the Ministry standard for reforestation and sustainable harvest of forests. It is a good example of a company committed to an environment of high-level stewardship.

In the Trepanier Creek area, our group saw evidence of a massive Douglas-fir tussock moth attack, followed by an evening presentation in Kelowna by ’the Bug Lady’, Dr. Lorraine Maclauchlan,  Regional Forest Entomologist for the Ministry of Forests, Southern Interior Region. She captivated us with tales of another famous beastie – none other than the mountain pine beetle – and how it has devastated much of the mature lodgepole pine in the interior of BC. Markets are sometimes difficult to identify for this blue-stained ‘denim’ wood and much has been left on the forest floor. This may become a future problem if too much slash / waste is not taken out after harvesting, as a huge layer of biomass can potentially accumulate to fuel later fires. The fires of 2003 and 2009 burned so hot that they even destroyed the soil base in some areas, largely due to accumulation of fuel caused by years of fire suppression. Perhaps we have become too proficient at fire suppression (Smokey Bear Syndrome), and debate on when to let fires burn continues. Fire is a natural agent of change in our forests, but today we have significant infrastructure and urbanization investments that we certainly need to protect.

That same evening, we were treated to a display of forest education resource materials for K-12, arranged by Debbie Bazett, forest educator for the Council of Forest Industries (Southern Interior Operations), who brought lots of handouts and teacher resources to take home for our classrooms and we all know how much teachers love to collect!!

Our final stop was Manning Park, where Ministry of Forests Terrestrial Ecologist, Judy Miller, showed us how this iconic park has been seriously impacted by beetle kill. They are now reforesting and experimenting with new fuel management treatments in Manning Park, because people like you and me prefer to see green trees in our beautiful parks.

If you are interested in bringing an aspect of our tour to your school, Okanagan forest educators have developed an excellent travelling exhibit displaying the story of forestry. Contact Wayne Lintott of the Interior Logging Association (www.interiorlogging.org ) to see if his organization's forest education van may be available to help your students learn more about BC’s leading resource industry.

If you attend a teacher tour with the Festival of Forestry, you will experience four exciting days where all manner of debate is encouraged and speakers answer questions forthrightly, and you will leave with new knowledge and a slew of teaching materials to take back to your classroom. Tours are held in the spring and fall; apply online and do not miss out! This is the top Pro-D activity for BC teachers if you want to make the best use of your valuable time!! The upcoming spring tour this March travels to Vancouver Island- check out the Festival of Forestry website for details.

To find out more about the Festival of Forestry and its next Teacher Tour to Vancouver lsland in March 2010, go to: www.festivalofforestry.org/Welcome.html


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