| Jul 14, 2011

Photo: Student rangers near Flinton

Members of the Ontario Ranger and Ontario Stewardship Ranger programs, two eight-week summer job programs geared to high school students aged 17, were out in full force on July 11. The programs are both sponsored by the Ministry of Natural Resources and hire Ontario youth for the summer to learn about and experience the great outdoors whole working on a number of environmental projects.

On July 11, led by Aaron Wilson of the Ontario Rangers, and Lisah Palmateer of the Ontario Stewardship Program, members of the two groups headed out into a section of the 2000-acre Lennox and Addington County Forest near Flinton where their teams spent a very hot, humid, and buggy day clearing out unwanted vegetation, specifically balsam fir, in a section of a 60-year-old red pine plantation forest. Using Sandvik brush axes, the students cleared brush all day long in an effort to enhance the growth of the red and white pine plantations there.

The main difference between the two programs is that the Ontario Rangers come from all over the province and camp out for the duration of the summer. Aaron's groups, for example, were camped out at Machesney Lake Ranger camp just north of Bon Echo Park near Cloyne. Their program consists in working on various projects for the MNR and local conservation authorities. The Stewardship Rangers, on the other hand, consist of students from Lennox and Addington and Frontenac County, and are based out of Kingston. They attend the program on a daily basis and travel back home at the end of the each workday. The Stewardship Rangers work for two local stewardship councils who decide which projects the students will work on.

Both groups underwent various training and certification programs in preparation for their work, which included standardized government training in campsite, swim, and boat safety, as well as provincial and occupational health and safety training and first aid. Some of the participants will be receiving two high school credits for the work they are undertaking.

While on site near Flinton, the group was overseen by Scott Brown of Silvecon Forestry, which manages the forest property. The county acquired the forest sometime after the depression, which according to Brown was a very smart thing to do. The red pines are harvested for hydro poles and are also sawn into lumber.

Many of the student participants said they were looking to get into the field of environmental studies later in their school careers. Ontario Ranger, Derek Lamarche of Wainfleet, Ont. said, “I love the outdoors and am definitely considering a career in the MNR and I felt this experience would be very helpful.”

Stewardship Ranger Marise Micklejohn felt similarly and was enjoying the experience. “I am learning a lot and am also loving being outside. The work can definitely be physically demanding but we are learning a lot of different skills and learning how to use a lot of different tools, which makes every day different and really interesting.”

The programs are making an impression on these students. When they were students themselves, both Lisah and Aaron participated in the programs that they are now leading. Aaron said, “Not surprisingly, many of the students who participate will end up going into the environmental fields afterwards, so these kinds of programs are definitely having a profound impact and are spurring youth on to those areas of study and work.”

Lisah agreed and said, “These programs are a great way for students to find out if working outdoors and in this sector is for them or not.”

Unfortunately due to government cutbacks the programs have been considerably reduced. The Ontario Ranger program, for example, has been cut drastically from its heyday in the 1980s, when 100 Ontario Ranger camps existed across the province. Now, just 13 remain. As a result there is a waiting list. Students looking for more information can visit the MNR's Youth Programs website. Student must be 17 years of age to participate in either program.


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