Youth stewardship program wrapping up for summer

  • Aug. 18, 2014 7:00 p.m.

Eight islands youth spent their summer surveying razor clams, removing fish fences and deer enclosures, maintaining trails, and more, with the Haida Gwaii Youth Stewardship Program, which wrapped up Thursday (August 14).”What I heard a lot from the crew was that it gave them a purpose for their summer. It let them try a lot of things they’d never done before. It surprises them. They like things they never thought they would. Or, it shatters stereotypes about different things on Haida Gwaii,” said Anna Tobiasz, HGYSP north end coordinator.Alyssa Stapleton, the south end coordinator, added, “They gained a lot of different skills from the job, but they also gained an appreciation for and support from their peers. It filled a deeper, societal need. They experienced a connection to place, to Haida Gwaii, and got to see a lot of different parts of the islands.”Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources Operations has been running the Youth Stewardship Program, formerly called the Junior Rangers Program, for ten years. It engages students between grades eight and twelve through work in areas of natural resource stewardship specific to Haida Gwaii.Eight students – four from each end – connect with and work in various islands communities, providing a valuable service to the businesses and organizations they assist.Danny Robertson’s company Highlander Marine worked with the groups to conduct tsunami debris cleanup and camp disassembly in Gwaii Haanas en route to Skang Gwaay.”They were wonderful, energizing, curious and helpful. They weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty,” he said, “Sometimes the work isn’t so glamorous, like taking apart an old outhouse. But, they were up for it all. Our future looks bright!”Mr. Robertson said he thinks it’s really important for young islanders to get interested and involved in natural resources management on Haida Gwaii.”It’s a lot easier to make the right decisions for the lands and the waters when you live and breathe them,” he said, “It’s really encouraging to see the program supporting opportunities for youth to see what’s involved in managing natural resources. It’s something that’s in all of our lives every day.”The paid positions bring awareness to and sometimes create a desire in islands youth to pursue careers in natural resources on Haida Gwaii, said Ms Tobiasz.”We call it the ‘earn, learn, return’ model,” said Ms Alyssa Stapleton.In addition to Highlander Marine and Gwaii Haanas, organizations and businesses such as FLNRO, the Council of the Haida Nation, Haida Fisheries, Taan Forest, BC Parks, the Tlell Watershed Society, North Pacific Kelp, the Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary, Misty Isles Economic Development Society, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, BC Timber Sales, and the Northwest Invasive Plant Council, played important roles in exposing Youth Stewardship participants to resource management.Some highlights from the program’s six weeks of employment, said Ms Stapleton and Ms Tobiasz, include delivering mail for the Haida Watchmen, early morning razor clam surveying on North Beach, deer enclosure removal from the Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary and Yakoun Lake, fish fence removal from Copper Bay and the Tlell River, trail maintenance with BC Parks, a forestry and silviculture tour, and overnight trips spent at Cape Fife and Moresby Camp.”The third day was quite exciting, our crew travelled to Copper Bay to remove a fish fence. It was originally supposed to take up most of the day, but ended up taking about two hours. Talk about a strong crew,” Teanna Russ wrote on the MIEDS ‘Your Stories’ website, “Our fifth and final day of (the first) week was quite the adventure, we met some of the members from Taan forestry! It was so exciting, we talked about all different kinds of soils, and how plants are effected by the human introduced deer. I personally learned a lot that day. All in all it was a very educational week.”Twenty-three high school students applied and were interviewed for the stewardship positions, of which only eight positions exist.”Judging by the number of applicants we had this year, there’s a definite need for more opportunities like this for youth on the islands,” Ms Stapleton said.

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