Written by: Chantal Lamontagne
The Canadian Conservation Corps is a three-part program that allows youth 18-30 to learn, grow and, experience Canada. For the second part of the program, I had the opportunity to work with the Huron Stewardship Council from November to February. The wintertime is slower for fieldwork due to the hibernation of the animals, which they monitor, but they still found many ways to keep us busy during that time.
Due to the season, my expectation was that it would mainly be office work that would have to get done to tie up loose ends from the field season. There was some of that; however, they make sure that we did get outside and gain hands-on experience. They also made sure that we experienced an Environmental Action Committee meeting where decisions about town environmental issues are made, and attend board and council meetings to gain a better understanding of the requirements of non-profits and what else goes on.
The Huron Stewardship Council had us go out into the field on multiple occasions to track the hibernation sites of the reptiles that are monitored in the summertime. I got to see these sites with and without snow, which makes these places look different. Winter also brings its own challenges once the water starts to freeze over. Walking to the hibernation spots becomes a bit more challenging compared to when there is no snow and ice.
We also helped with the removal of Buckthorn which can vary in size and overtake areas as they are an invasive species. I got to use some new hand tools such as loppers, to do the removal of these shrubs.
We worked with the County Forester, Dave Pullen, to help with various projects. As Dave was willing to give us as many experiences as possible in the forest, he let us assist with the launch of the Sheppardton Tract, where he held a public event in January. We helped build a day-use cross country ski track for the public. A few days before the event, rain melted the snow which turned the cross-country ski day to a hike and bonfire.
Dave took us to a few logging sites to compare a high production logging site using heavy machines to a lower production site using horses. The difference in impact is shocking as the horses left few traces that they were there. It was surprising how physically fit the logging team was and how they could fit through very tight spaces. I had the opportunity to go with Dave and some planners to mark trees for harvest and hear about creating an accessible trail for everyone to use in the future. I also learned about how trees are chosen and properly marked to be firewood and logs, including ash, which has been decimated by the invasive Emerald Ash Borer. Dave also helped me become a bit more comfortable with winter tree identification.
I also had the opportunity to attend the Forests Ontario “We The Forest” conference to learn more about the value of trees, what can be done with them, and their significance.
This experience will indeed be unforgettable, filled with many learning opportunities which the Huron Stewardship has given me, and the people I have met along the way.
The Canadian Conservation Corps (CCC) is now accepting applications from youth aged 18-30. As part of the program, participants will travel across Canada for wilderness training, enjoy conservation field experiences, and develop service projects. The program is presented by the Canadian Wildlife Federation with the support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Service Corps. For more information or to apply, visit CanadianConservationCorps.ca.