Faces of Forestry: Dan Macmaster

Faces of Forestry is an initiative of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to highlight people doing great work to enhance our forests throughout British Columbia. This month, we feature Dan Macmaster, RPF, Fibre Manager of Vaagen Fibre Canada (Vaagen).

Since the beginning of his career, Dan has been passionate about the natural environment. As a former high-school teacher, he taught students about outdoor education subjects like biology and ecology.

Dan has a Master’s degree in Sustainable Forest Management from the University of British Columbia. He is active on numerous boards, including the BC First Nations Forestry Council, BC Community Forest Association, Interior Lumber Manufacturing Association, and the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s forestry working group. Just recently, Dan was appointed to the Province of B.C.’s Forestry Worker Supports and Community Resiliency Council, chaired by Doug Routley, Parliamentary Secretary for Forests.

“Working in forestry, I have the opportunity to engage with people, share ideas, learn about community values, and make key decisions that so many people depend on,” noted Dan.

In 2013, he joined Vaagen, a small, family-run mill, located in the rural community of Midway, in the Boundary region of B.C. As the Fibre Manager for Vaagen, Dan and his team process small-diameter logs into high-quality dimensional lumber. Using innovation, technology, and collaboration, the team focuses on safety, utilization, and building strong partnerships with other licenses.

Currently, Vaagen holds a management agreement with the West Boundary Community Forest (WBCF) and the Osoyoos Indian Band’s (OIB) forestry licences. As the Forest Manager for the WBCF, Dan, along with his team carries out all forest management projects in collaboration with OIB.

“As a forestry company, it is important for us to understand the values and traditions of the land. The expertise the surrounding communities bring to the table is critical to our work,” Dan added.

Dan’s involvement in the community is an essential part of Vaagen’s commitment to sustainable forestry, developing new and strong relationships with First Nations, and stabilizing local rural communities with employment and sustainable economic opportunities. Not only does Dan believe in the power of community and educating people in all things forestry, but he believes in inspiring other foresters to take similar actions.

“I like the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, but a visit to the forest is worth a thousand pictures. I encourage my fellow foresters to reach out to their community members to help build awareness for all that happens within our forests,” said Dan.

In his role, Dan manages multiple objectives within the forest, including recreation, wildlife and timber values. Dan is also passionate about providing educational outreach opportunities to young students. He is rooted in the belief that these learning opportunities are critical to the future well-being of community forests and the forest industry.

“As forest professionals, we often manage many different responsibilities and competing demands that leave little room for educational outreach,” noted Dan. I believe if we can reorganize some of our priorities and enlist the help of other forest professionals and educators, then communication and collaboration specific to forestry education will better inform our communities and our next generation.”

Faces of Forestry: Ken Nielsen

Faces of Forestry is an initiative of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to highlight people doing great work to enhance our forests throughout British Columbia. This month, we feature Ken Nielsen, General Manager of the Chinook Community Forest (CCF), the 90,670 hectares of community forest located near the Village of Burns Lake.

Ken started his career in forestry in the early 80s when the forest industry in British Columbia continued to experience noticeable changes. At the time, several mills began to automate many of their intensive labour activities, and many rural communities depended greatly on forestry as their primary source of employment.

“When I entered the forest sector, it was mostly about prioritizing financial objectives. Now, we focus on properly managing our land for future generations, promoting community unity, and increasing wildfire awareness,” Ken noted.

As the General Manager of CCF, Ken oversees forestry and logging operations, wildfire salvage projects, and wildfire mitigation efforts. The work Ken and his team carries out in the community forest ensures environmental sustainability and employment opportunities for economic and social growth.

The community forest agreement includes eight partnerships consisting of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, the Village of Burns Lake, Lake Babine Nation, Skin Tyee First Nation, Nee Tahi Buhn Indian Band, Burns Lake Indian Band (Ts’il Kaz Koh), Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Wet’suwet’en First Nation. The collaboration between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities ensures an equal voice and equity in all forest stewardship operations.

Nielsen believes that managing the forest requires a particular set of qualities. “I am an example that to take good care of a community forest, you need an awareness of the best land management practices, a hands-on approach, a strong work ethic, and a big heart.”

Faces of Forestry: Kirsteen Laing

Faces of Forestry is an initiative of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to highlight people doing great work to enhance our forests throughout British Columbia. This month, we feature Kirsteen Laing, RPF (Registered Professional Forester), Administrator at Seaton Forest Products Ltd.

Born in England, Kirsteen originally moved to Vancouver with her family at the age of 10. Where she later decided to pursue higher education at the University of British Columbia, and after two years of pre-med school, she discovered that her true passion was in the outdoors.

“I decided medicine wasn’t for me, so I went to talk to one of the forestry professors. He was enthusiastic and told me of all the possibilities found in forestry. I entered the program thinking I would do Forest Recreation, but I ended up in Forest Silviculture,” remarked Kirsteen.

In the early stages of her career, Kirsteen joined CUSO International and worked as a forester in Mozambique. During her stay, she first worked for a national logging company and then for a plantation, where she gained experience revitalizing a nursery.

“It was a forester’s dream to have our own little forest to work with. The project was fascinating because it covered beekeeping, fishkeeping, planting orchards, and vegetable gardening,” said Kirsteen.

In 1986, Kirsteen decided to relocate to Smithers, British Columbia, where she started a forestry consulting firm. After many career changes, in 2015, Kirsteen met her partner Andy Thompson and joined Seaton Forest Products Ltd.; as an Administrator in charge of payroll, payables and receivables, log deliveries, product shipping, reporting and various hands-on tasks.

Seaton Forest Products Ltd. is nestled among coastal mountains in the beautiful Bulkley Valley, where the mill sits at the foot of Seaton Mountain. The company has been in business since 2016, employing approximately 25 people, the majority being from local Indigenous communities. The primary business is processing dry balsam, pine, and spruce that cannot be used by traditional mills and historically has been left in the bush or burned, ensuring the 100% utilization of fibre.

During her career, Kirsteen has done it all. From working for industry, volunteering overseas, consulting, working for not-for-profits, and now working at a sawmill. She describes her career as a rewarding journey. In every role Kirsteen excels at, she puts other people and the environment first.

“Forestry is a very diverse field with many different career paths to choose from after graduation,” remarked Kirsteen.

Faces of Forestry: Steve Law

Faces of Forestry is an initiative of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to highlight people doing great work to enhance our forests throughout British Columbia. This month, we feature Steve Law, RPF (Registered Professional Forester), General Manager of the Clinton Community Forest (CCF).

Steve’s profound passion for the outdoors, mountain biking and his “outside the box” mindset led him to start a career in forestry. He has completed a Diploma of Forestry Resource Technology from the College of New Caledonia, graduated from the Association of BC Forest Professionals Pupil Program and became a Registered Professional Forester in 1997. 

Currently, Steve is the General Manager of the Clinton Community Forest and manages ten woodlots in the Cariboo Region. In his role, he works with the volunteer Board of Directors and the Village of Clinton to carry out safe and sustainable management practices for timber production, recreation, and natural preservation. 

“Forestry is much more complex than just logging and milling. There is equal consideration of other factors such as wildlife, riparian, visual quality, social and First Nations values, etc. I especially enjoy the operations part of forestry, which includes increased utilization of poor quality, low-value timber or biomass which minimizes or eliminates the need to burn slash piles. I am involved from start to finish in planning, operations, and silviculture, and through my work at CCF, I get to see the proceeds go back to the community,” explains Steve. 

After meeting operational costs, surplus funds are invested into the community and surrounding area. As residents of the Village of Clinton, the volunteer Board of Directors seeks to benefit the local area through programs, events, and bursaries. 

“Community forestry with the direction of a Board of Directors, allows us more freedom to manage social and economic community values,” said Steve.

To balance the economic and ecological concerns, the CCF has applied for funding with the FESBC for fuel break and wildfire risk reduction treatments. The projects will help reduce the wildfire hazard in high-priority areas within the community forest and surrounding rural developments. The wildfire risk activities include standard fuel management practices such as thinning, pruning, removal of unhealthy trees, understory burning, and encouragement of deciduous tree growth.

“This has only been possible with FESBC support and funding, and the FESBC management and staff have been extremely encouraging in making these goals happen,” noted Steve. 

Faces of Forestry: Frances Swan

Faces of Forestry is an initiative of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to highlight people doing great work to enhance our forests throughout British Columbia. This month, we feature Frances Swan, RPF, Operations Forester for Nakusp and Area Community Forest.

Frances has deep roots in the Kootenay region and has called Nakusp her home since 1997. Her appreciation for forestry and love for the community have always been fundamental parts of her life.

“Looking back, I can appreciate that my dad was a forester and inherently understood the concept of sustainable management long before it became practice, so it was easy to follow in his footsteps,” said Frances.

Frances then completed a Diploma of Forest Technology from Selkirk College, a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from the University of Northern British Columbia and a Graduate Certificate in Project Management from Royal Roads University.

Frances is the Operations Manager of Nakusp and Area Community Forest (NACFOR). In her role, she manages a broad range of strategic and operational projects and supports PR and communications strategies.

Since 2008, NACFOR has operated successfully as a BC corporation owned by the Village of Nakusp and is part of the BC Community Forest Association (BCCFA). Its operations are contracted, primarily with local contractors, and have delivered numerous benefits to the local community.

As an RFP with more than 20 years of project management experience in the natural resource sector, Frances has worked with FESBC as the recipient lead on several projects in Nakusp. Frances and the team at NACFOR have been able to deliver projects focused on wildfire risk reduction treatments and fibre utilization.

“Working with FESBC has been a very positive experience. Through direct and leveraged funding, FESBC has supported NACFOR to take a collaborative approach to reduce the threat of wildfires, while building local capacity to carry out fuel treatments,” said Frances.

During her career in forestry, Frances has volunteered with many local and regional organizations, from ski coaching to economic development. As the community forest manager, she combines resource stewardship with local land-use decision-making that reflects community priorities and values. Frances currently sits on the BCCFA Board of Directors.

“Forest management is a complex process, with many moving parts. It requires a thoughtful, balanced approach to land and resource use, as decisions made today will have enduring outcomes,” said Frances.

Faces of Forestry: Francis Johnson

Faces of Forestry is a newer initiative of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC), to highlight people doing great work to enhance our forests throughout British Columbia. This month, we feature Francis Johnson, RPF, Alkali Resource Management Ltd. (ARM), Forest Manager. 

Francis was first drawn to joining the forestry industry after witnessing how community and forestry were dependent on one another; and how critical this relationship is to enhance a community’s living conditions and natural resources.

“As I learned more about Forestry, I saw that Esk’et had a community forest and their management decisions were based on community values. I knew that there was an opportunity that I could work in my community one day.”

Johnson then completed his Bachelor of Natural Resource Management in Kamloops at Thompson Rivers University.

“I encourage people to consider careers in forestry. We have a diverse industry with several areas of expertise, so there is work that suits different personality types and skill sets,” said Johnson.

Francis is the Forest Manager at ARM, a forestry company centred on providing numerous forest management services, such as timber development, road construction, wildland fire suppression, and more.

Since 2011, ARM has worked closely with BC Wildfire Services, deploying fire suppression crews across the Cariboo region.

For the last couple of years, Francis has worked with FESBC on behalf of ARM in Alkali Lake. The projects focused on forest carbon efforts through forest harvesting activities undertaken by the First Nation, wildfire risk reduction treatments adjacent to communities, and habitat improvement in the Esk’etemc community forest and First Nation Woodland License.

As a Registered Professional Forester, Francis believes that community voices and values must be factored in, when managing the land.

“It’s rewarding to see how the Community Forest and First Nation Woodland licenses help individuals in the community with economic benefits, and with new infrastructure developments. People are inspired to choose careers in forestry that require higher education and training,” said Johnson.

Faces of Forestry: John Davies

Faces of Forestry is a new initiative of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to highlight people doing great work to enhance our forests throughout British Columbia. This month, we feature John Davies, RPF, Frontline Operations Group, Principal.

Registered Professional Forester (RPF) John Davies’ forestry career germinated during his time working in a seedling nursery, which was owned by his future sponsoring forester. From there, he went timber cruising on the coast over 35 years ago. Since then, he’s worked in every corner of the province timber cruising, tree planting, fighting forest fires and practicing wildfire management.

Davies, who completed a BSc in Resource Management at the University of British Columbia, has covered a significant geographic area since 1988.

“I’ve worked everywhere from the Arctic to Montana—firefighting and forestry takes you everywhere.”

Davies was drawn to forestry through a combination of positive experiences working with other RPFs early in his career and the desire to work outside.

After ten seasons fighting wildfires, Davies established his own wildfire management consultancy in 2004, one of the first RPFs to start consulting in wildfire management after the Filmon report in 2003. Since then, he has contributed to millions of dollars in community protection projects. His career highlights are when two of his fuel management projects successfully protected homes during the 2020 and 2021 wildfire seasons in the Okanagan.  

“The landscape-level fuel breaks we planned, developed, designed, and implemented around Heritage Hills, Penticton, and Westshore Estates, North Okanagan, successfully protected those communities from the Thomas Creek fire in 2020 and White Rock Lake fire in 2021 respectively. These fuel breaks successfully reduced wildfire behaviour near the homes and allowed structural fire fighters to safely deploy suppression tactics before the approaching wildfires.

Regarding his career in wildfire management focused forestry, Davies said, “having the opportunity to practice and promote value-based management and make sound and integral decisions while protecting communities is a rewarding experience.”

“Being a forester allows you to work and live almost anywhere in BC and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else for a career.”

Faces of Forestry: Erin Robinson

Faces of Forestry is a new initiative of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to highlight people doing great work to enhance our forests throughout British Columbia. This month, we feature Erin Robinson, Forestry Initiatives Manager at The City of Quesnel.

“I remember learning in school that we would eventually face a time of ecological change so drastic that we would no longer be able to ignore it – and then in 2017, it was on our doorstep. During the 2017 wildfires, I remember thinking, ‘Should I move my family away from here?’ and then I realized, there is no longer anywhere we can move to that isn’t facing an ecological crisis. 

The Forestry Innovation Centre is located in the City Hall of Quesnel and from inception in January 2019, I’ve held the position of Forestry Initiatives Manager. The Forestry Innovation Centre is excellent for fuel management and FireSmart. We also support research and innovation in landscape management and forest product manufacturing. I’ve always been interested in land and resource management from a social science perspective for most of my academic and working career. 

I chose this current career because, in my opinion, the pest outbreaks, wildfires and floods we are experiencing, while they have ecological explanations, are inherently social problems with social solutions.  I believe forestry has an integral role in restoring the ecosystems we rely on for continued human survival. I want to thank the Forest Enhancement Society BC for all the work they have enabled in Quesnel, the surrounding region and the province.”

– Erin Robinson, Forestry Initiatives Manager, City of Quesnel

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Erin obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology and an interdisciplinary Master’s in Natural Resource Management and Anthropology, focusing on community forestry, from the University of Northern British Columbia. Her thesis The Cross-Cultural Collaboration of the Community Forest used the Likely Xats’ull Community Forest (LXCF) as a case study. For eight years, Erin was part of the LXCF Board of Directors and she has published peer-reviewed articles on the topics of community forestry.