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Forests Ontario’s 7th annual conference, and first virtual conference, is bringing together nearly 500 landowners, forestry professionals, Indigenous leaders, educators, and students from across the province, country, and globe. Running until Feb. 5, the multi-day conference, Growing Our Future, aims to unite speakers and attendees to collaborate for a more sustainable future.
“The theme for this year’s conference, Growing Our Future, couldn’t be more timely,” said the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources, who sent a pre-recorded video message to kick off the conference. “Trees matter. They absorb and sequester enormous amounts of carbon and they make our communities more resilient against climate change.”
Rob Keen, Registered Professional Forester (RPF) and CEO of Forests Ontario, applauds the many efforts that have been made to date. “From Canada’s commitment to plant two billion trees in the fight against climate change and reduce the loss of biodiversity, to our collective efforts to restore grasslands and other natural ecosystems, to our pursuit of alternatives to plastics and other non-renewable products, we are diligently moving towards a more sustainable future,” Keen said. “This year, our annual conference will capture these efforts and carry the momentum forward into the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and as we build back better in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This is the largest forestry conference of its kind in the province and featured presentations, virtual exhibitors, play-to-win opportunities, and an awards ceremony which recognized important contributors to forestry including:
• Green Legacy Award: This award celebrates a visionary corporate partner that has been instrumental in promoting a healthy environment for future generations. This year, the award goes to the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, for its support of various Forests Ontario programs over the last six years, including Tree Bee, Heritage Tree, Community Tree Plant, and Reconciliation Community Tree Plant.
• Robert de Pencier Award: This award is presented to an individual for outstanding activities in private land forest management and strong support of forestry promotion, education, and understanding. This year’s award was received by Fraser Smith, a Peterborough-based RPF who owns and operates FSmith Consulting, where he specializes as a one-stop-shop for forestry expertise.
• Most Valuable Planter Award: This award recognizes an outstanding individual or organization for contributions to restoring ecosystem health via tree planting initiatives. This year Dave Bartram, President of Bartram Woodlands Ltd. based out of Guelph, earned the designation of Most Valuable Planter by planting 30,000 trees in southern Ontario with Forests Ontario in 2020, a tough job made even tougher due to coronavirus protocols.
• White Pine Award: This award, which recognizes student contributions to forest education and awareness, went to Alexandra Farkas (recent graduate from the University of Toronto’s Master of Forest Conservation) and Alexandra Lalande (graduate of Fleming College’s Forestry Technician Diploma and current B Sc. student at Lakehead University). Both Farkas and Lalande have helped Forests Ontario’s promotion and outreach efforts.
• Susan Wiecek Forestry Education Award: This award recognizes individuals or organizations for outstanding contributions to forestry education in Ontario. This year, Jessica Kaknevicius (VP of Education, SFI/Project Learning Tree Canada) earned the honour for her tireless work in supporting youth education for more than a decade.
• Forests Ontario Award: This award goes to individuals for outstanding achievements and contributions to forestry education in Canada and beyond. North Bay area resident Brian Naylor, who retired after 30 years at the Ministry of Natural Resource and Forestry, wins the award for 2021. Naylor spent his career studying the effects of forest practices on wildlife, and helped to develop many forest guides, including the Forest Management Guidelines for the Provision of Pileated Woodpecker Habitat, the Ontario Tree Marking Guide, the Stand and Site guide, and the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Landscape Guide.
• Maple Leaves Forever Envirothon Award: This award, presented to an individual or organization which has demonstrated exceptional leadership, involvement, or dedication to the Ontario Envirothon program at the regional or provincial level, went to Mark Menhennet (Waterloo), who has been involved in the Grand River Regional Envirothon since its first year in 2015, and has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Ontario Envirothon.