I'm no forester...
At 17 years old, I wanted to move to downtown Toronto, go to university to become a journalist and write for Rolling Stone magazine. After all, what better way to meet all the talented musicians that I idolized as a teenager. What the heck was forestry and why would I want anything to do with it??
So how did I end up working in the forest sector fueled by a strong passion to tell the good news story of sustainable forestry? Well the simple answer is by complete accident.
Due to the intuitive and protective nature of my father who kept me close to home, I attended Confederation College in Thunder Bay and graduated with a Marketing Diploma. I thought marketing might complement my aspirations to write, so I was satisfied to use it as a stepping stone. However, we all know that life happens; relationships, jobs, moves and we often take a path different than anticipated. As a young married couple, my husband and I relocated to Dryden and I was fortunate to begin working at the local pulp and paper mill now called Domtar. My initial role was clerical in nature, but after a short time, I was presented with the opportunity to work in public affairs and support the forestry division. The public affairs work excited me! It complemented my marketing background and I loved to write so any written work was welcomed. I loved interacting with people, event planning and being creative. The forestry side….meh!
I then spent a great deal of time driving around Domtar’s license areas with foresters visiting active harvest operations…. listening, observing and learning. I spent time with planning foresters to understand forest management planning in Ontario and stakeholder engagement. I began to understand silviculture (what the heck was that word anyway?) The concepts of clearcutting and renewal options were explained to me. I learned about protecting species at risk, Indigenous values and areas of concern. What?? You mean you just don’t go out there and mow down everything!? I learned about SUSTAINABILITY.
The lightbulb went off – it was flashing actually. “How did more people not know about this stuff?” I thought! I wanted to know more and I wanted to tell the story.
I was eventually partnered with an experienced forester who taught me all about environmental management in the forest. This eventually turned into me coordinating Domtar Dryden’s certification efforts for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) standards and leading the Environmental Management System (EMS) on the two forest licenses that Domtar manages. This role continued to develop my knowledge base around everything from various best management practices to caribou habitat.
I continued my public affairs work, leading a number of initiatives working with foresters to educate youth and teachers about sustainable forest management. Namely the annual Conservation Camp program that has been a mainstay at Dryden High School for over 60 years led by Domtar (and its predecessors) educating students about resource management and sustainability. I became active with the Canadian Institute of Forestry sitting on the board of directors representing the Lake of the Woods Section. Here, I am proud to say, our talented group developed a forestry teachers tour in Northwestern Ontario; building on the concept of Conservation Camp by educating the educators.
I have been shaped and influenced by many impressive women within the sector over the years. I have seen more and more young women enter the industry and with the support from organizations like Women in Wood and the Canadian Institute of Forestry’s work with gender equity, these women now have somewhere to turn to that will help foster their success in what has been a traditionally male dominated sector.
Now, after being at it for 25 years, my role has come full circle with me working in communications, engagement and public affairs. I spend my time preparing communication materials and promoting the Domtar Dryden mill, all while advocating sustainable forest management.
For years I was always sensitive to the fact that I was not formally educated in forestry. I have now embraced this lack of formal education recognizing that it has helped tremendously working in communications. The brilliance of many forestry professionals is demonstrated by their highly detailed, technical and scientific explanations of passionate topics. However, these in-depth explanations do not always transcend well with some of the non-forestry types who actually need to understand the concepts. I like to think that I’ve developed a knack to wade through the technicalities to pull out simple key messages. I have learned that we, as an industry, have work to do to tell our own good news stories. We have traditionally been reactionary in our approach which has, more often than not, left others telling our story for us. This is something we in the sector need to improve upon and proactive communications and media campaigns are the key (#ItTakesAForest).
My path has by no means been traditional. I have developed a passion that I didn’t even know I had! One thing for sure; I will always want to share the messages of sustainable forestry. So…. if you take me out to the woods, I will likely fail at tree identification, but I know I can hold my own in talking about emulating natural disturbance in the Boreal. I’m no forester, but I’ve got the basics and I love it.
The Rolling Stone will have to wait until I retire.
Dianne Loewen is the Coordinator for Forestlands and Public Affairs at the Domtar Dryden pulp mill. After spending over 25 years working in the forest sector, Dianne proudly calls Northwestern Ontario home. She is an active community volunteer with her latest endeavour serving as the Secretary and Media Relations representative for the newly formed Dryden Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. She spends her down time with her husband and two children. Her passions include cooking, music and of course, telling everyone about sustainable forestry.