The Merritt Forest Week Committee is supporting forestry in the community, both through the management of the natural resource, and through supporting community building initiatives. With National Forest Week quickly approaching, the committee is promoting education and awareness about an industry that is at the core of the Nicola Valley.
National Forest Week is taking place from September 18 to 24 this year, and the newest theme is “Canada’s Forests: Solutions for a Changing Climate”. In preparation for this week, which looks to promote education and inform the public on the different uses and values gained from BC’s forests, the Herald sat down with a number of community organizations involved in Forestry Week. The Merritt Forest Week Committee is composed of representatives from the Ministry of Forests, BC Wildfire Services, Stuwix Resources, and Weyerhaeuser Princeton. They promote a number of educational opportunities in forestry throughout the year.
“How we’re involved is through the Merritt Forest Week Committee,” said Andrea Inwards, a Tenures Forester with the Ministry of Forests.
“I think the committee is over 30 years old. We do tree planting with students, and we generally do the Mike Morrison Memorial Bursary for $1000. We’ve given that out for a long time, and it’s given to kids of forestry industry families, and they generally have to write a thousand word essay about a topic that we chose to apply.”
Applicants are asked to outline how they contribute to their communities through volunteer work and other endeavors. As the bursary is meant to be awarded to someone who embodies the community values of a past leader of the committee, well known volunteer Mike Morrison, the latter part of the application is very important to the committee.
In addition to the bursary, the committee supports a number of learning opportunities for younger generations. In 2022, the Ministry of Forests presented to Grade 2 and 3 classes at a local school about the role of a professional forester, as they have for many years teamed up with BC Wildfire Service to take Grade 5 students from all the schools in the Nicola Valley tree planting. The tree planting event is coupled with the “Grade 5 Poster Contest,” where students create posters based on the current year’s National Forest Week theme. Prizes range from a week at Silver Lake Forest Education camp, to passes at the local pool.
Along with programming directed at youth, the committee typically hosts an annual nine hole golf tournament, raising money to support local forestry initiatives. While they offer information and promote forestry to all ages, the Merritt Forest Week Committee is mainly focused on raising awareness in students and youth. The committee also regularly partners up with Home Hardware and Merritt Secondary for the “Amazing 2×4 Contest,” where contestants create their own design from a single piece of 2×4 lumber, celebrating the versatility of forest products.
“Our mandate is to promote education in youth. We do lots of educational things, like our partnership with NatureKids. Though we would like to do lots of educational things, we are a small group and don’t have the manpower to do all we would like to. To help us meet our mandate we have joined forces with NatureKidsBC ” added Inwards.
“We’re located in the Merritt Timber Supply Area which has an annual allowable cut (AAC) of 1,200,000 m³ per year, and that gives us jobs in the woods, in the mills, and then all the supporting industries and businesses. It is important to us that the youth understand their local natural environment and appreciate how the forest industry contributes to the lives of the people in the timber supply area.”
Inwards added that in addition to these economic benefits, the forestry industry gives Merrittonians a glimpse into their heritage. Forestry, along with ranching and mining, is an industry that has been a mainstay in Merritt’s economy, culture, and daily life since the community’s inception. Through the promotion of sustainable forest management practices, engagement with local First Nations and other stakeholders, and support of community building events, the Merritt Forest Week Committee is building a solid foundation of knowledge in the community.
For more information on the Merritt Forest Week Committee, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/merrittforestweek.