Stewardship Youth Rangers complete natural resource projects
Fort Frances SYR Assistant Team Lead Kelli Cole (left) and SYR James Gesic (right), clear a portage on a traditional canoe route in the Fort Frances area.
SYR Mitchell Jones-Foy (left) and Gesic (right) work together to strip bark from willow branches, which will be used to make natural tobacco.
Portage clearing and an invasive species campaign were among the wide variety of projects completed by Aboriginal Stewardship Youth Rangers this summer.
“We cleared a couple of portages — they weren’t very long but they were bushy,” said James Gesic, a Stewardship Youth Ranger from Red Gut. “We spent a lot of time clearing them and making them wider for the public to access them if they go on a canoe trip like we did.”
Gesic was one of 12 Stewardship Youth Rangers who were employed for eight weeks by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in the Rainy River and Fort Frances area. Part of the (MNRF) summer employment program, the rangers engaged in unique projects that benefitted the environment.
“The rangers, over the summer, have really developed an appreciation for the environment and have recognized the importance of taking care of the land for generations to come,” said Sandi Elliott, program coordinator of the Stewardship Youth Ranger Program. “And to spread the word that it is important for their fellow youth to take care of the land.”
The Stewardship Youth Ranger Program was operated in partnership with with Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong Training and Employment Centre and the United Native Friendship Centre.
The rangers’ work supports the MNRF’s mandate of managing Crown land, parks and protected areas, water, fish and wildlife — including endangered species — and forestry. Twenty-five different projects were completed over the summer.
“It’s been a great year,” Elliott said. “We have two crews of six working out of Fort Frances staffed with a mix of non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal students from communities across the Rainy River District.”
Gesic enjoyed working in the natural environment.
“This was just a great experience to have under the belt,” Gesic said. “I learned a lot about pine martens and why we build (pine marten) boxes and why we place them where we place them. I also learned a lot about bear awareness training — I found that to be a lot of fun.”
Gesic said it was fun working with the other rangers.
“I knew a lot of these kids from school, I just never talked to them,” Gesic said. “Work has brought us closer together. We had some good laughs and worked well with them.”
Gesic said the team leads helped guide the rangers along the way during the summer.
“Hopefully we keep in touch with (the other rangers) throughout our life,” Gesic said. ”It’s been great working with them this summer.”
Gesic encouraged other youth to apply for the Stewardship Youth Ranger Program in future years.
“If you have the opportunity to get in this program, jump at it,” Gesic said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Assistant team lead Christina Vandermeer, from Couchiching, returned for for another year with the Stewardship Youth Rangers.
“It’s an entirely different view of the (Stewardship Youth Ranger) Program — you’re trying to teach the rangers what you learned in the past years,” Vandermeer said. “It gave me a whole different perspective on how things are run. I really enjoyed being a leader.”
Vandermeer helped teach the rangers about pine marten boxes and how invasive species, such as purple loosestrife, are spreading in the region.
“I highly recommend the program to anyone who is interested,” Vandermeer said.
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