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Squamish Nation youth tour Interfor operations


Twenty-five Squamish Nation youth last week got a day in the woods and a look at what a career in the forestry industry might look like, courtesy of International Forest Products, the timber company that owns the majority of forest tenures in the Squamish Forest District.

The idea arose out of a series meeting between the Squamish Nation and Interfor representatives that, among other things, recently resulted in the deferment of cutblocks in the Elaho Valley until Squamish Nation land claims there can be settled, and in the Sims Valley until cultural and heritage values can be determined.

While discussing opportunities for employment in the forestry industry, Donna Billy, a councillor for the Squamish Nation, commented that "Our youth really don’t know what a career in the forest industry might look like," to Keith Rush, the general manager of Interfor’s South coast operations.

In response, Rush set the wheels in motion for a field trip into Interfor’s operations in the Squamish valley, covering all of the bases.

"They’re typical kids, they’re attention span is quite variable, but I think the majority of them got a lot out of the day," says Dal Shemko, safety co-ordinator for Interfor’s operations in Squamish.

"They don’t know much about the industry, but there are such a huge variety of skill sets that are required these days. There are the biologists and the wildlife people, the planning people and the engineers. It’s not just the guy with the saw anymore."

The tour started at Interfor’s dryland sort operation in Squamish with Ketih Stinson, the log quality co-ordinator, describing the grading and sorting process.

From there, they traveled to Mile 29 in Tree Farm License 38 to participate in a fire fighting exercise with Bryan Tailor, a rapid attack team member with the Ministry of Forests, and Gary Hendrickson, Empire Logging’s fire warden. The kids split into two groups to see who was fastest laying out the hose and getting the pump going to knock over a target.

At Mile 31, the bus stopped at Interfor’s fish enhancement project at Shovelnose Creek to learn about careers in fish and wildlife management from Steve Rochetta, a habitat biologist with the Ministry of Environment, and Jim Roberts, a forest eco-system specialist. Using a telescope the group watched a group of three mountain goats on a ridge across the Squamish River.

The group stopped for lunch at Peaches and Ponor Creek, where they talked to Greg Richardson, a helicopter pilot with Black Tusk helicopters. The kids got to try their hand at planting trees and listened to Jeff Fisher, a registered professional forester with Interfor, and Joanne Leo, a forester in training.

The group took a walk through a selectively harvested block and spent some time with Rudy Remier, a member of the Squamish Nation and a Consulting Archaeologist.

Laurel Brewster, a member of the Sierra Club of B.C. and a newly certified professional forester who was B.C.’s highest scoring graduate last year, also spoke.

The kids took turns using an increment borer to learn the age of a tree under the supervision of Jonathan Smyth, a forest industry instructor with BCIT.

The day ended with a dinner at Totem Hall in Squamish, where the group listened to Maya Josphy, Sitsma Employment Co-ordinator, Interfor’s Keith Rush, Gordon Prest, and a co-ordinator for First Nations employment initiatives from UBC. Mabel Lewis, a Squamish Nation elder also spoke.

"They had a great time, I think," says Shemko. "It’s always an organizational challenge getting all these people in the right place at the right time, but it was a valuable experience for both sides.

"Overall it was very positive and very essential to this whole process when Squamish Nation comes to some sort of conclusion as to what they want to see happen, and what is their traditional territory."