Conservation Camp Celebrates Sustainable Forestry

When Bonny Skene attended Conservation Camp in 10th grade, she wasn’t looking for a career in forestry. “My parents always encouraged me to try new and different things, and Conservation Camp was definitely new and different,” she says. “I didn’t know much about forestry, although I grew up in a forest in Dryden, Ontario. But I attended the camp, and I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot.”

Several years and two degrees later, the experience came full circle when Skene, now Domtar’s regional public affairs manager in Canada, started working at the Dryden Mill as an IT manager in 1996. “You just never know where an opportunity will lead you,” she says. “I wasn’t a kid who dreamed of being a forester or working in the industry. But the experience was helpful when I ended up in a forestry industry career.”

Conservation Camp 2019
Conservation Camp is led by Domtar’s Dryden Mill in partnership with Dryden High School and other Dryden community partners, including Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Dryden Forest Management, the Dryden Trappers Council, Brinkman Reforestation and Raleigh Falls Timber. The three-day camp gives high school students an opportunity to broaden their understanding of resource management and conservation concepts.

Now in its 63rd year, Conservation Camp offers hands-on experiences in sustainable forestry, silviculture (the science of tree growth and cultivation) and harvesting, with a focus on wildlife, aquatics, soils, fire management and forest technology.

This year, 48 ninth-grade students and more than 20 adult leaders participated in the camp, which took place at the end of May. Students were assigned various roles, such as Forester, Environmentalist, Tourist Operator, First Nation, Trapper and Recreationalist. As they participated in workshops, students considered how resource management and conservation might impact their assigned role and how they might interact with other interest groups. On the last day, the students applied what they learned to prepare a mock forest management plan that replicated the real-life process in Ontario.

“The Ontario curriculum for grade 9 geography and science fits very well with our program content,” says Dianne Loewen, Conservation Camp coordinator and Domtar’s forestlands and public affairs coordinator. “The camp is a great way to show students that renewable resources are sustainable and that resource management can sometimes conflict with stakeholder needs. We want students to walk away with two key messages: that it is possible to minimize negative effects on the environment and that stakeholders in Ontario have a voice in forest management planning.”

Skene knows firsthand how such an experience can pay off later in life. “At Conservation Camp, I started to understand a lot more about sustainability,” she says. “Then coincidence and opportunity converged, and here I am all these years later working in public affairs and talking about how we connect with and benefit our communities in Canada.”

Take a look at our gallery below to see this year’s campers in action. Learn more about Conservation Camp by watching this video about the camp’s diamond anniversary in 2016.

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