My Summer as a Youth Stewardship Coordinator on Haida Gwaii
By Colleen Fuhrman
As I was combing the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society's job board this spring, my hopes were not high. I was looking for that job that peaks your personal interests while also aligning with your professional goals. In my short experience as a Geography and Environmental Studies graduate in a highly competitive job market, this job had not yet appeared; at least one I was actually qualified for. This summer though, I was in luck. I came across the Youth Stewardship Program. As a coordinator for this position, I would help organize a work experience program for local high school students that focused on the diverse and varied fields of natural resource management on Haida Gwaii. The program is funded by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO), the Council of the Haida Nation, Gwaii Haanas and Parks Canada, Haida Corporation, Taan Forest, and Gwaii Trust. It is amazing to see governments, industries, and local organizations come together to create this unique experience for Haida Gwaii’s youth.
Myself and my co-worker, Marco Calara, were the lucky candidates to coordinate the 2017 season of the Youth Stewardship Program on Haida Gwaii. FLNRO heads this program by hiring the coordinators and then providing office space, ministry trucks, tools and equipment, and support. The job involved planning and organizing with our partners, which was a great way for us to network with people working in natural resource management on Haida Gwaii. The planning months flew by, with a lot of field days for us with the amazing staff at FLNRO. We learned to navigate the logging roads, how to properly and safely use the radio systems, how to set up Gypsy Moth traps, how many times it is appropriate to email someone before it becomes irritating, and so much more in these two months. The planning months weren’t all spent out in the field; we also spent time developing the safety plan for the program. Marco and I took our roles as safety coordinators very seriously and learned from the conscientious and dedicated people in the FLNRO office. Our supervisors and fellow staff trained us with their extensive knowledge and experience, and gave us resources that prepared us for working in the field, working in industrial forestry areas, overnight camping, bear encounters, using hand tools, using forestry trucks and driving on active logging roads, and dealing with emergency situations. Without safety as a priority, this program would not have continued for so many years (this was the 13th year it has run!), and it is of utmost importance to remember this and embrace it.
We had a very busy summer with our 10 students where they gained work experience in the many different fields of natural resource management on Haida Gwaii; some of their experiences included:
BC Parks – helping fortify and renew the White Creek Trail
BC Timber Sales – helping remove cedar tree protectors, and collect retention patch data like tree species, tree heights, and diameters at breast height
Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary – helping with landscaping and gardening at their interpretive centre
Haida Gwaii Natural Resource District – Stewardship Section – helping pull invasive thistle, and building chicken coop extensions to help limit the interacts between chicken farmers and the local endemic species of Goshawk
Haida House – building an extensive trail and learning about its unique history in tourism and conservation
Haida Fisheries – helping remove the Copper River Fish Fence and learning about salmon life cycles and life histories, the differences between species, and how salmon impact the terrestrial, marine, and freshwater ecosystems on Haida Gwaii
Haida Wild – learning about processing and packaging of local fish and shellfish
Highlander Marine Service – helping with marine debris clean up on the west coast of Haida Gwaii
Kleanza Consulting Ltd – learning about archaeology on Haida Gwaii and the importance of protecting archaeological features
North Pacific Kelp – helping process and package kelp food products harvested from the waters of Haida Gwaii
I want to thank everyone involved in this process for this experience. I have lived on Haida Gwaii for 3 years now, and it was definitely the experience of a life time. I have learned a lot, matured a little, and had so much fun doing it all! I will take the skills I learned here through to other areas in my life and career. I can't wait to see what the future holds for this program. There are so many dedicated and motivated youth on Haida Gwaii; they represent the future of these communities and of natural resource management on the islands. It’s my hope that the array of governments, industries, organizations, and individuals who make this program happen continue to see the value in the program and how their participation is the backbone of the program. Most importantly, I hope that this program continues to engage and inspire youth on Haida Gwaii to be involved in their communities and in the management of the resources around them.