Ontario Report - Can you see the forester through the trees?


Silviculture contractors know the importance of a good silvicultural prescription. In most provinces across Canada, the responsibility for that prescription falls to the professional forester.  In Ontario we are a licensed body with over 830 members. That number has declined by more than 17% over the last five years. The universities in Ontario that offer Forestry degrees have seen declining enrolment in the program for a number of years. In fact, in 1993 the University of Toronto closed its undergraduate program (Bachelor of Science in Forestry) due to low enrollment. These institutions have tried rebranding forestry to attract our youth into the program but this has had limited success.  Additionally, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), under Premier McGuinty, has announced that MNR will manage its responsibilities in the forest using a risk-based approach. This will be coupled with layoffs/early retirement within the MNR over the next few years. So who will be minding the forests in Ontario?

Silvicultural contractors are partners with professional foresters in the management and renewal of our precious natural resource. Foresters rely on silvicultural contractors to implement our prescriptions. The members of the Ontario Professional Foresters Association (OPFA) recognize and value their partners in ensuring the sustainability of one of our greatest natural resource: trees.  For this reason the OPFA have partnered with the Ontario Forestry Association (OFA) to expose and educate young people on the value of a career in natural resource management and professional forestry. As an example, the OFA has initiated a campaign to invite a professional forester into the classroom for National Forest Week, September 23-29 (www.forestcareers.ca).  The goal of the Invite a Forester campaign is to encourage teachers to talk about forests in their classroom by bringing in a professional to engage students. This campaign is only a portion of the work carried out by the OFA, and accompanies their Focus on Forests program. Teachers are often faced with curriculum objectives that are outside of their expertise, and they value support from outside organizations who can deliver the right message to their students. By having a professional forester, or someone working in the forest, visit the classroom they can speak to their experiences within the industry. They can also highlight the way in which our resources are managed, from seed to forest to product, focusing on the sustainability of our forests. Educating classrooms about natural resource management is important for creating individuals who make educated decisions now and into their futures. Perhaps some of these inspired students may even choose a career in forestry.

As a partner, silviculture contractors are in a unique position to engage and encourage employees to further their education and consider a career as a professional forester. The OPFA has tasked a special committee (Career Awareness Committee) to “find the passion” in our young people and spark them to choose forestry as a career option.  Working together, we can all ensure that forestry remains a viable and valued profession in our industry.  If you wish more information about our initiative or would like to find out how you can help, please contact the OPFA at [email protected] .