Letter from the Publisher
Forest Educator, Council of Forest Industries (Southern Operations)
Southern Interior Forest Education's Current Downturn
Over the past fifteen years, forest education in BC's Southern Interior has grown from one Okanagan forest educator employed in the early 1990's to six forest educators working in various zones across the Southern Interior by 2004/2005. This growth resulted from the hard work and vision of now retired Okanagan forest educators, Jeannie Steele and Deb Sluggett, and their belief in promoting the hiring of additional forest educators funded by local companies throughout the Southern Interior to develop forest education programs similar to the Okanagan model.
Unfortunately, these past successes have seen a significant change this year, with a serious decline in Southern Interior forest educators hired, due to the economic downturn and the challenges currently faced by the forest industry. West Kootenay and Thompson Forest Educators held events through the first two months of school, but the Okanagan-Columbia, East Kootenay and Cariboo zones did not employ forest educators this year, due to a lack of local funding and cutbacks to available government grants. Both the Thompson and West Kootenay regions have now terminated their programs, leaving only COFI South Forest Education operating in the Southern Interior.
As the COFI South Forest Educator, my role continues to maintain the visibility of forest education in the Southern Interior through program events, online newsletters, Learn Forestry website promotion and resource updates and by providing educator support, at least for the current school year.
Realizing the importance of teaching our young people about the forest resource and BC's forest industry, it is hoped that forest educators will once again be hired in the future. In the meantime, Southern Interior forest education hangs in the balance, waiting for the economic upswing to positively affect our forest industry and hopefully, the return of forest educators working with students, teachers and community members across the Southern Interior.
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