From being in the bush to on the lake, it’s been a busy summer for the four local youths who have been working as Ontario Stewardship Rangers with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
“I’m having a really great time here,” Sara Roach said about her experience so far in the eight-week-long program.
“I guess I just like doing different stuff every day,” she noted. “Everything’s not the same every day, there’s always new projects.”
“The Ontario Stewardship Ranger program is a youth employment opportunity from MNR and we work in conjunction with the Rainy River Stewardship Council,” explained Susanne Brielmann, the OSR team lead with the MNR.
“It gives them the opportunity to be involved in various environmental projects throughout our district,” she added.
Through partnering up with different groups (private landowners, businesses, and clubs), the stewards work on projects with an environmental or stewardship theme while focusing on education and teaching them various skills.
These numerous projects include such things as monitoring bluebird lines, trail-clearing for the Rainy Lake Nordic Ski Club and at other locations, access point and campsite clean-ups on Rainy Lake, looking for and classifying dragonfly exuviae, sustainable agriculture such as planning and designing stream crossings and fencing off rivers, milkweed mapping by GPS, monitoring for invasive species such as the rusty crayfish, and helping out with last month’s Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
“My favourite part is being outside throughout the entire summer and being able to work with different stewardship-type programs,” said Megan Venoit.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she enthused.
The top experience so far this summer was working at the bass tournament “because I felt like I was making a difference in the community,” Venoit added.
“It was nice working with the fish and being involved with the community,” agreed fellow ranger Chelsea Hill, who also listed helping out at the bass tournament as her favourite experience to date.
“I actually kind of liked [all the projects],” said Roach, although their work doing invasive species monitoring for rusty crayfish was probably her favourite.
“I just liked it because we went on a boat and we were looking for an invasive species,” she remarked, though adding with a laugh that it also was fun to touch the crayfish.
“It was an actual research project—I felt like we were important because we were looking for an invasive species,” Roach continued.
For Isaac Keffer, examining exuviaes and dragonflies has been the most interesting activity throughout the weeks.
“It’s just cool to learn all about them,” he said. “We learned how the exuviae stay under water for a really, really long time and after a while the dragonfly hatches out of, and then it’s only alive for a couple of months.”
Identification was one of the many skills the rangers have learned, Keffer noted.
“I learned a lot of how to identify things—like, I never knew what poison ivy was like and I found it,” agreed Roach.
Besides plant and species identification, Brielmann said the youths also undergo “a lot of training” so they know how to use a GPS, compass, and different tools.
And both leadership and teamwork skills have been among of the biggest things they have learned, all four of this summer’s rangers agreed.
“We focus a lot on teamwork and leadership, responsibility, appreciating the natural environment, and taking an active role in it,” Brielmann said, referring to the skills the program aims to teach.
“We definitely want them to work on just making a difference on their part,” she stressed.
“So we’ve tried to have projects where they can self-lead—so everyone gets a project where they can self-lead and so they have to be concerned with health and safety aspects, they have to plan the project, plan the day, that kind of thing.”
Applications for the program usually are posted on the MNR’s website (www.mnr.gov.on.ca) in early to mid-spring, noted Brielmann.
Those interested in applying must submit the application form, a résumé, and cover letter, and also go through an interview process.
To qualify, youth also must be born in a specific year.
This year, for instance, all applicants had to be born in 1993 while next year it will be 1994.