Fort Frances man to head O.F.A.H.

FORT FRANCES—Despite a frustrating day travelling home from Toronto thanks to Sunday’s late-winter storm, Fort Frances resident Jack Hedman still was thrilled by the news he brought with him.
Hedman was elected president of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (O.F.A.H.), an organization dedicated to protecting woodland and wetland habitat, conserving fish and wildlife, and promoting outdoor education.
“I really consider it a tremendous honour,” Hedman said in an interview Monday, saying his name came up on Saturday during the O.F.A.H.’s 79th-annual general meeting and he was elected to the position.
“It’s not something I actively sought out,” he remarked. “I never dreamt of this. It’s not something I was trying to get to. It’s one of those things that just happens.”
But Hedman stressed he’s looking forward to his two-year term.
“I’ve met a lot of great people along the way and I know we have a tremendous staff,” he said.
“The executive director is very dynamic and personable, and makes the job rather easy, along with a good board of directors.
“I think it’s just a matter of learning as I get into it and taking things slowly,” he continued.
Being president of the O.F.A.H. is a big responsibility, but Hedman said he already has tons of experience after having been involved in the organization in various capacities for about 25 years.
He started on the executive of the local Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club, working his way up to chairman of Zone ‘A,’ then to provincial director at large.
He filled in as the second vice-president in recent years.
“We have about 80,000 members so it’s a big organization,” Hedman said. “[And] the whole process is a very onerous commitment—it’s actually a 10-year commitment.”
Traditionally, Hedman explained, you serve two years as second vice-president, then two years as first vice-president, followed by two years as president.
When that term is up, another four years are served in the past president and past past president roles.
“It’s an excellent process because essentially you have four years to be groomed, participate, and learn, and two years to take it on with good people that have served before you as advisors,” he said.
“Then you can stick around and work with the people coming in.”
But seeing as it is a provincial position, Hedman conceded there likely will be a fair amount of travelling involved in holding the position of president.
“But it’s okay,” he added, noting he’s been retired from teaching for nearly 10 years. “It doubles like a full-time job, and it keeps me active and keeps me occupied.
“I’m very much, obviously, interested in it and like to stay on top off things.”
Having been an avid hunter and angler for years, Hedman sees his new role as a chance to make sure these activities no longer are taken for granted.
“I’m going to be doing the best I can to ensure the opportunities are there for my colleagues, children, and grandchildren,” he stressed. “I guess it’s a different way of looking at it—rather than being out in the field, I’ll be behind the scenes.”
Hedman said he doesn’t want to see anything threaten the future of hunting and fishing. “They’re are heritage activities in Canada, so that’s why I’m there,” he stressed.
Invasive species, such as the spiny water flea which was found in Rainy Lake last year, are just one of the impeding factors.
Another of the current and larger issues is the spreading of viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) virus.
“It’s been around for a while, but we’re worried it’s starting to spread,” said Hedman, adding the serious pathogen of fresh and saltwater fish is causing an emerging disease. “We’re not sure where it’s come from, but it has entered our water bodies like so many of the invasive species,” he noted. “It’s very, very scary.”
He said the virus has been found in a number of fish species in the Great Lakes region. And since they don’t know how it’s spreading, it is a great concern because these fish could all die.
Hedman indicated the Fort Frances area currently is in a “virus-free” zone. “But we don’t know where it’s going to end up,” he warned.
He is pleased his new position will keep him well informed about what’s going on and that he will be able to deal with people who have the expertise required to handle it.
“I’ll be able to get the word out,” he stressed. “I’m looking forward to it, particularly being a northerner my heart is right here at home, but my head has a provincial and, indeed, even national focus.”
And he knows he may not always be able to keep everyone happy.
“Sometimes you have to make very difficult decisions,” he said, adding he feels confident he will be a good leader.
“I see my role as being a person to lead, rather than dictate, but when the hard strikes come, there may be a time when I’ll have to take a tough stand,” Hedman remarked.
He plans to listen intently to the board of directors because they represent the membership across the province.
Hedman is not the first president of the O.F.A.H. from Northwestern Ontario, as there have been others from Thunder Bay, Kenora, and Dryden in the past.
“I’ll be the fourth from the northwest,” he enthused.
“We’ve also had presidents from Northeastern Ontario, too, so the north has been very well represented when you consider we represent a very small percentage of in terms of the overall membership,” he added.
And Hedman stressed he plans to keep that strong representation record intact as he carries out his duties over the next two years.
“So I am entering it with confidence, but also entering it with a lot of respect with the people I’m working with,” he said.