By: The Working Forest Staff
Alliston, ON – Forests Ontario’s 6th annual conference brought together nearly 400 landowners, forestry professionals, Indigenous leaders, educators and students on February 14th in Alliston.
“It’s fitting that our conference is on Valentine’s Day, as a love for forests repays a thousand-fold,” said Rob Keen, CEO of Forests Ontario. “Our forests provide us with food, shelter, and warmth; they support the ecosystem services we depend on; they fight climate change – when we take care of our forests, they take care of us.”
The largest forestry conference of its kind in the province, it featured several presentations, hosted local exhibitors, a silent auction for charity, and an awards ceremony recognizing important contributors to forestry.
- Robert de Pencier Award: This award, presented to an individual for outstanding activities in private land forest management and strong support of forestry promotion, education and understanding, was received by Sambath Kumaar for his efforts bringing awareness to the provincial cancellation of funding for the 50 Million Tree Program (50 MTP), as well as to the general importance of tree planting. Kumaar, a Windsor resident, created a petition to rescind the order to cancel 50 MTP funding, which accumulated 100,000 signatures.
- Green Legacy Award: This award is presented to a visionary corporate partner that has been instrumental in ensuring a green legacy for future generations. This year, Canopy Growth was recognized for their $100,000 contribution to Forests Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program.
- Most Valuable Planter Award: This award recognizes an outstanding individual or organization for contributions to restoring ecosystem health via tree planting initiatives. This year, Wayne Pawson, a Planting Delivery Agent for First Resource Management Group Inc., was awarded the designation of Most Valuable Planter for his dedication and his achievement of planting 600,000 trees with Forests Ontario.
- White Pine Award: This award, which recognizes contributions to forest education and awareness, was presented to Natalie Heyblom. Heyblom is a Master of Forest Conservation candidate at the University of Toronto and a volunteer for the Forestry in the Classroom program.
- Susan Wiecek Forestry Education Award: This award is presented to individuals or organizations for outstanding contributions to forestry education in Ontario. This year, the award was received by Craig Todd, Resource Management Coordinator for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, for his work as the Ontario Envirothon Coordinator for Grey/Bruce and as a frequent volunteer for the Forestry in the Classroom program.
- Forests Ontario Award: This award is presented to individuals for outstanding achievements and contributions to forestry education in Canada and beyond. The 2020 Forests Ontario Award was presented to Martin Streit, a Registered Professional Forester who has dedicated his career to ensuring forest sustainability in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence region.
- And new this year, the Maples Leaves Forever Envirothon 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. The award was presented to Terry Schwan, a Registered Professional Forester and an outstanding contributor as a forestry specialist and Envirothon supporter.
- Moderated by Scott Jackson of Forest Ontario, the panel discussed many aspects of inspiring change. (L-R) Scott Jackson, Hanna Freedberg, Fridays For Future; Katrina Van Osch-Saxon, coordinator of the Arboriculture program at Fleming College, co-founder of the Women in Trees conference, and professor of Urban Forestry, Forestry, and Arboriculture; and Hap Wilson, Eskakwa Eko-Adventure Company Inc.