Forests Ontario

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Forestry Connects: a Newcomer’s Perspective

Posted: October 4, 2016

by Krystal Thomson

Look around you.

What’s the closest wood product to you within your vicinity? The desk you’re sitting at? The pencil beside you? The sleeve on your coffee cup?

Krystal Thomson of Ontario Wood shares her Forestry Connects experience in Renfrew County.

Krystal Thomson of Ontario Wood shares her Forestry Connects experience in Renfrew County.

From where did the wood for that product come?

A tree, obviously.

But what species of tree? From what forest? Why that tree? Then what?

I learned a few things about answering these questions, along with the harvesting and initial processing of trees at Forestry Connects in Renfrew County. For those of you who don’t know, Forestry Connects is a 2-day program organized by Forests Ontario for high school students and teachers. The program gives participants a firsthand look at the forest industry – from tree marking to wood mill processing and everything in between. Working for Ontario Wood, a partner of Forests Ontario, I had the opportunity to tag along.

I have to say my favourite part of the trip was venturing into the forests and practicing tree tagging and identification. I’ve always been envious of people who can identify any tree with a mere glance. I, on the other hand, even with a tree identification guide in hand, can only identify the tree species one-quarter of the time. Pro tip: before you try identifying the tree, make sure it’s not just a very large shrub.

Seeing the regrowth in areas where trees had previously been harvested was so promising. Ontario is home to 85 billion trees and they’re truly a renewable resource. One of the harvesting operations we visited had a forest management plan for the next 125 years. That’s not unusual for a managed forest. Like, what?! I can’t even plan beyond a month in my life and stick to it, forget 125 years.

To be perfectly honest, I initially wasn’t the most excited about touring the wood mills, but it turns out they were fascinating (the hot pink hard helmet I got to sport during the tours may have added to the fun just a little). Seeing all the machinery in works up close was actually mesmerizing. It was like watching an episode of How It’s Made live.

I would highly recommend Forestry Connects to any student even mildly interested in forestry, or just with a love for trees. It’s rewarding to be knowledgeable about Ontario’s forests, which cover two-thirds of the province, and provide jobs to nearly 200,000 Ontarians.

Krystal Thomson is a marketing officer for the Ontario Wood program within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. She spends most of her working hours talking to businesses and the public about why buying local wood from sustainable forests is beneficial for the environment and the economy (and you)!