In early May, I pulled up for the first time at my basement suite rental in Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan. Four deer loitered in the driveway showing no sign of leaving in a hurry. I opened the door and was met with a blast of fresh air -- the smell of spruce, pine and spring meltwater percolating through the soil. This would be my life for the next four months while I worked as a forestry intern for Weyerhaeuser Timberlands. It was a drastic change for me, but one I was ready for.
A little over a year before the internship, I was working in an office in downtown Saskatoon. I had a business degree and several years' experience in tourism, which attracted me because tourism in Saskatchewan is so closely connected with nature. I would spend as much time as possible reading about plants, wildlife, forests and the ecology that connects them all together. But I was always restless sitting indoors, staring at a computer screen for hours on end.
When the pandemic hit and forced me out of my job, like many others in the same situation, I reassessed my priorities and decided it was time for a change. I realized it mattered less to me what career I chose, as long as I could live and work directly with nature. So I decided to enroll in the Integrated Resource Management program at the Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Prince Albert. I couldn't do it on my own, though. I needed support from family, so I called my mom, dad and grandpa to sheepishly pitch the idea, and was relieved to find they were almost more on-board for the idea than I was.
The program was packed full of courses on wildlife management, soil science, botany and plant taxonomy, resource law, and the ultimate synthesis of them all: forestry. These topics and the issues affecting them already occupied my brain space on a daily basis, so it was an easy fit. Less than a year from starting school, I got my first summer job as a forestry intern putting everything I learned to the test.
My internship would be like no other job I'd held before. I would be hiking several hours a day, in rain, snow, bugs, heat or cold, often in remote areas where I would be responsible for my own safety and well-being. I would be exposed to some of the major activities involved in forestry, including silviculture, road planning, recon and forest inventory. Through all of this, I was going to experience a world of firsts: my first time in a helicopter, riding an ATV, pulling a trailer, operating a pumper trailer, surveying inventory sample plots and working in active logging areas. I couldn't find another internship that offered more skill-building opportunities than this.
The best part, though, was that I was going to be working the entire summer in an area I already knew and admired.
The Weyerhaeuser Timberlands office operates in the Pasquia Porcupine Forest Management Area. I was familiar with these forests, having published my share of stories documenting my trips and experiences there on a blog I started in 2014. Having knowledge and appreciation of the area - one that is often overlooked or misunderstood, even by some Saskatchewan residents - I think is an important aspect of being a responsible resource manager. When meeting the Timberlands office staff for the first time, it was reassuring to find they shared the same appreciation for the area. It was clear that what they did for a living was more than just a job.
So this is where we begin. My name is Andy, I'm 31 years old, and now beginning my second career path. Where once you might have found me in a line of vehicles waiting for a light to turn, I am now in a driveway waiting for the deer to politely leave. I hope you enjoy the stories to come.