Two forest stewardship organizations to merge

OWA and EOMF already share Kemptville headquarters

With two top staff members set to depart from the Eastern Ontario Model Forest (EOMF) to focus more on their own businesses, the organization will come under the wing of the Ontario Woodlot Association (OWA) – with which it already shares an administrative office and resource person in Kemptville.

OWA executive director John Pineau is now heading both organizations. 

Pineau says the move is being viewed by both organizations as “an opportunity” that had been talked about as a possibility for several years.

Why it matters: Woodlot management can help improve yield of lumber and more stable environments.

President Tony Bull, in a letter on the organization’s website, explains General Manager Astrid Nielsen’s forestry consulting company “is now at a point where it needs her undivided attention,” and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification program coordinator Jim Hendry is moving into semi-retirement while also maintaining his own forestry business.

“The executive realized that this confluence of (the two departures) made for an opportunity to make changes to ensure the future health of the EOMF so that the key programs — forest health network, forest certification program and our educational events — could continue to thrive,” the letter says.

The goal is to phase in the merger and creating one board of directors and one membership under the OWA umbrella by the end of 2021.

“There was nothing desperate about (the decision),” said Pineau. Instead, with the two staff departures, it became “the logical thing to do at this time.”

While there will now be a single top-level staff member instead of two, the search is already underway for a new certification program coordinator. And that person, once hired, will be full-time due to the ability to include some OWA work in the job description.

“So we are going to staff up,” Pineau said. “It gives us more capacity so, in that way, it’s a real advantage for the OWA.” 

According to Pineau, the entire Model Forest network in Canada was originally created in the 1990s and designed to encourage sustainable forest management but lost its government funding about a decade ago. Regional Model Forest groups that persisted were forced to look elsewhere for financial support, and Pineau suggests EOMF was one of the most successful at making that happen.

In particular, he said, securing the rights to deliver the FSC certification program to its members allowed it to expand its influence beyond the “Eastern Ontario” in its name. Almost 80 OWA members in five of the OWA’s 20 regional chapters have achieved FSC certification through the EOMF, and Pineau expects the merger will allow that to grow into additional regions.

OWA also promotes sustainable management in Ontario forests by providing information on best-management practices. It also provided a united provincial voice on the health of Ontario’s woodlots. Like the EOMF, it was created in the early 1990s.

“It’s all about best management practices and allowing private landowners as well as institutional landowners to be good forest stewards,” Pineau said when asked about which elements of their vision statements are already shared by the two merging organizations.

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Stew Slater

Stew Slater operates a small dairy farm on 150 acres near St. Marys, Ont., and has been writing about rural and agricultural issues since 1999.

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