The Ontario Forestry Association (OFA) will be hosting its 64th Annual Conference on February 8th in Alliston, Ontario. ‘Our Working Forest’, the 2013 theme, will focus on the importance of the forest industry, the contributions that forestry makes to our economy and culture, and the opportunities that forests present to Ontarians. The OFA hopes to restore the image of the industry using our annual conference as an opportunity to engage landowners, forestry professionals, students and the general public. Our Working Forest will bring together experts from industry, academia, government, and more to discuss the state of forest products today, what to expect in the future, and what this means to all of us.
“Ontario’s forests can work for all of us, providing important economic, ecological, and recreational opportunities,” said Margaret Casey, OFA director and conference chair. “The message we are trying to get through is that whether you are a practitioner, woodlot owner, or any other interested individual, there are benefits to managing your forests, both on a landowner and provincial scale. While there may be differences between these two scales, there are many similarities as well.”
Casey admits that the theme is slightly different than previous years. “There is a greater focus on the forest industry and finding what a working forest means to landowners in Ontario. Previous conferences have been more about science and research, including talks on the emerald ash borer two years ago.” This year, OFA is planning a pre-conference session for municipal forest managers on EAB in partnership with York Region on February 7th as a way of addressing this critical issue. This will allow the OFA to focus the conference on providing new information to the public and creating a greater connection and awareness of the forest industry in Ontario.
The conference will open with a plenary session that will address ‘What is the Working Forest?’, and highlight the successes of a working forest in Ontario. Peter Schleifenbaum, owner of Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve, will speak of his property and how he utilizes his forest land. “It will bring a unique perspective to the audience and get everyone on a good thinking path first thing.”
Two streams will run concurrently throughout the day, one focusing on Ontario’s Forests and the other a Landowner’s Toolbox. The Ontario’s Forests stream will cover topics such as forest ecology, Algonquin Park as a working forest, and even the successes of local wood products, with the goal of highlighting the value and importance of our provincial working forests.
The Landowner’s Toolbox stream will focus on helping woodlot owners get the most out of their forests and include talks from those working directly in the forest such as loggers and forest consultants, giving the audience a more in-depth view of how they work. “The sessions will provide woodlot owners with information and encouragement on using professionals and the critical questions they should be asking them,” Casey said.
“I really see this event as getting people to think in a positive way about the forest and its role, but also being practical for the landowners and getting them to look at the future,” Casey said of the conference.
Previous years have enjoyed near capacity numbers with over 300 people, and Casey expects the same turn out again this year. Registration is limited so those interested are encouraged to register early.
The conference theme will be a leading force for the OFA in the coming year, with the goal of increasing the public’s awareness of forestry in Ontario including forest ecology, careers and sustainable management of our resources. Successful programs such as Focus on Forests and Forester in the Classroom aim to reach teachers and students in engaging curriculum linked resources. For more information about the OFA, visit www.oforest.ca