Milling About in Kenora
Posted: March 2, 2017
March 8th is International Women’s Day and Forests Ontario is celebrating by sharing stories from “women in wood,” professionals and leaders whose work has supported sustainable forest management and creative use of forest resources across the province.
Below, Madelaine Kennedy of Weyerhaueser discusses her role overseeing sustainable logging in Kenora.
Crown forests are publicly owned and it’s the responsibility of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to secure their long-term health through careful planning and management that allows forests to provide a range of benefits, including commercial material, habitat, recreation, and healthy watersheds. According to the MNRF, this responsibility is “shared with forest product companies or groups of companies and communities.”
Weyerhaeuser is one of those companies, having been in the business of growing trees and making wood products, everything from homes to diapers (yes, you read that right), for over a century. In Canada alone, Weyerhaeuser is responsible for the sustainable management of 14 million acres of forest, much of it Crown Land in Ontario, where they in turn work with contractors and partners within the community to carry out planting, harvesting, and additional restoration activities.
When it comes to harvesting trees for lumber and building material, Weyerhaeuser is under strict provincial regulation to ensure that any harvesting does not interfere with the aforementioned values.
Madelaine Kennedy is an Operations Forester with Weyerhaeuser based in Kenora. Madelaine’s role is to ensure that the mill has an adequate supply of timber while verifying that those harvesting operations do not veer from the regulations established by the province and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
When in the field, which is where she’s happiest, it’s Madelaine’s responsibility to provide harvesters with appropriate layouts, marking off boundaries before harvesting actually begins and carrying out evaluations to ensure that they’ve complied with requirements.
Kenora is a long way from Madelaine’s Toronto roots, but a childhood spent attending outdoor educational camps sparked early interest in environmental sciences and the outdoors. Making the move to Kenora has nurtured these and other passions like fishing and canoe tripping. That love of the land continues to inspire Madelaine’s career and gratitude for a role that affords her opportunities to be outside.
Madelaine has been in her role for just over a year now, having previously interned with the Canadian Institute of Forestry
(CIF). She says that the one thing that continues to surprise and interest her is the sheer complexity of details and consultation that go into the planning process when a forest management plan is developed.
Madelaine explains that forest management plans are developed to cover ten years of forest management activity, and divided into two five-year phases. These plans are created in consultation between the MNRF, First Nations Groups, local landowners, contractors, and biologists, among other groups. This consultation is precisely how management plans enable the use of resources without disrupting and in many cases even enhancing other values such as wildlife habitat.
As a younger forestry professional, and one who understands that there is always more to learn when it comes to forest management, Madelaine has taken the initiative of playing a lead role in Weyerhaeuser’s community engagement.
“The biggest misconception the public has,” she says, “is that logging isn’t sustainable and without exposure to and an understanding of the whole process, I understand why those misconceptions exist.”
Madelaine has delivered talks on forest management at local schools and also guided student tours in Kenora, allowing students to see first-hand how the products they use every day are made possible, along with the opportunities to camp, fish, hike, and hunt. These opportunities can often be taken for granted, but are the result of the work that professionals like Madelaine do across the province. Madelaine has also served as the regional Ontario Envirothon coordinator in Kenora.
While she’s still new to giving talks and leading workshops, Madeline says she’s already surprised at how much students know and how quickly their interest in forestry develops. Madelaine says she feels that It Takes a Forest was a great idea because with the positive results she’s seen in reaching out, every opportunity the forestry sector can take to engage new audiences is worthwhile.