Temperatures finally may be cooling down but the eight-week Ontario Stewardship Ranger program is just heating up.
And the four youths who were hired this year—Adam Egan, Thomas LePine, Christina Vandermeer, and Bryce Godin (all born in 1995)—are keeping very busy.
Although they are well into the program, Stewardship co-ordinator David May talked about what they have accomplished so far and what they still have to look forward to.
“To start off the summer, we complete mandatory training that helps us to work safely and professionally,” May explained.
“Some of our training includes bear awareness, health and safety training, workplace discrimination and harassment prevention, GPS training, ORCKA canoe training, safe boating, and field communication training,” he noted.
May said they have a busy and exciting summer planned, ranging from some intense manual labour to working with professionals such as biologists, trappers, and farmers.
Some of the projects include clearing brush at the Rocky Inlet cross-country ski trails, pulling invasive plants called phragmites (European common weed) and purple loosestrife from ditches, installing pine marten nesting boxes in Mine Centre, and assisting with fish care and fish data collection at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
Other projects include hare surveys, Rainy Lake campsite and beach clean-ups, a canoe trip to re-establish a local historical canoe route, and creating a low-level river crossing for livestock in the Rainy River.
“We also are being provided with many educational opportunities throughout the summer provided by professionals and organizations within the district,” added May.
These already have included participating in a mock fire with a Ministry of Natural Resources fire crew and a tour of the Steep Rock mine in Atikokan.
May believes the popular program is important because it “provides skills and training for youth, personal growth, and community-based work experience for youth who would like to expand their dedication to natural resources stewardship.”
“This is just one of a number of youth employment programs offered by MNR that give young people hands-on training for future careers,” he noted.
Almost all of the students are looking to continue in this field.
“When I graduate high school, my plan is to attend college in Alberta in order to pursue a career as a conservation officer in either Alberta or the Yukon,” said Godin.
LePine also is looking at becoming a conservation officer after graduation next year, noting, “I plan on attending college in the Fish and Wildlife Technician program.”
Egan plans on taking a slightly different path.
“I want to go to school in Guelph or somewhere with a strong biology program,” he explained.
“I plan on getting into wildlife management and staying in the region.”
Vandermeer is the only one who’s considering something in an unrelated field.
“I plan on going away to the University of Manitoba to either pursue nursing or dental hygiene,” she remarked.
“We think this program is important because it provides insight and hands-on experience in different fields/careers of the Ministry of Natural Resources,” said May.
“This program is a great stepping stone for young people interested in pursuing a career in natural resources and a fantastic summer job.
“A large portion of this program is educational, so [it] provides really great opportunities to learn, especially about environmental issues and concerns,” he stressed.
Seeing as it is one of the most interesting summer jobs available, it comes as no surprise the four have many things to look forward to this summer.
May said the projects the students are looking most forward to include the four-day canoe trip in August starting in Vickers Lake.
“We will be clearing portage trails and using a GPS to mark our route in an effort to re-establish one of the historical canoe routes in our area,” he noted.
The group also had a booth set up at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship last week, promoting the program as well as providing information on animals native to this area, invasive species, and species-at-risk.
The also assisted with fish care at the bass tournament by checking temperatures and oxygen levels of the fish tanks, and helped a local MNR biologist collect fin samples from some of the fish for a research project.
“Many experiences” are what they hope to take away from the program, May said.
“[They] hope to get as much insight into as many career paths as [they] can at the MNR,” he noted.
“By working as an OSR, [they] get to work with many different professionals within the MNR and experience the kind of projects they do.”
“Education provided with job experience is the best part of it,” May stressed. “[They] expect to be much more educated in natural resources and environmental issues, including invasive species and species-at-risk.”