The future for Canada’s forestry sector is bright, judging by this year’s winners of the Top 10 Under 40 competition from Canadian Forest Industries. We scoured nominations from across the country in all sectors, including logging, sawmilling, equipment and technology suppliers and associated industries.
The result is a list of high-performing professionals who are well-equipped to lead the industry in the decades to come.
Planning and Certification Co-ordinator,
EACOM, Val D’or, Que.
Christine Leduc, who holds a master’s degree in forest conservation from the University of Toronto, has already had a decorated career.
In 2015, she was recognized by the Canadian Institute of Forestry with the Prince of Wales Award. That same year, she was given the Fernow Award from the Ontario Professional Foresters Association.
Before joining EACOM, Leduc worked as a policy advisor for the Office of the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources. She also had a stint as director of policy and communications for the Ontario Forest Industries Association. And, in addition to her current day job at EACOM, she is also the company’s Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) lead – a position she is very passionate about.
“Christine embodies the next generation of the Canadian forester,” says Johanne Latour, one of Christine’s colleagues at EACOM. “Knowledgeable, passionate, deeply involved, and always eager to hitch a ride in a feller buncher, she obliterates gender stereotypes and preconceived notions.
“She is extremely well-known throughout the industry and has built an extensive network of contacts. Through her contagious energy and enthusiasm and her ceaseless work, she has been changing the face of forestry in Canada to a modern, approachable industry full of potential.”
Leduc, 32, also spends a lot of time outside the office volunteering in the industry. She mentors new and upcoming entrants to the forest sector through Project Learning Tree Canada’s Green Mentor Program; sits on the board of directors for Forests Ontario; and has participated in Women for Nature since 2017. She has also been instrumental in the Women in Wood network, offering support and encouragement to women entering the field.
“She is extremely hard working, intelligent, tough and innovative,” says Lacey Rose, one of her peers and co-founder of Women in Wood. “The perspective she brings by looking at or approaching things in a way that’s outside the box has had a positive influence on everyone around her.”
Head Lumber Grader/Assistant Sales Manager,
Spruce Products Ltd., Swan River, Man.
Lumber is in Derek Broome’s DNA. Born on the edge of the Duck Mountain Provincial Park in western Manitoba, he grew up cutting firewood with his two brothers and it wasn’t long before he began operating a portable sawmill in his own yard.
Derek, 39, has already spent two decades in the forest industry, most of it as a second-generation employee of Spruce Products Ltd. (SPL) in Swan River, Man. He started at age 18, piling lumber and pulling slabs. He also ran various machines in the sawmill and sorter.
After taking a break from forestry, trying out careers in medical response and criminal justice, he returned to SPL, working in the planer mill. He eventually worked his way up to head grader – a position he held for more than a decade. Earlier this year, he was offered the sales manager position, and has been in training with the outgoing sales manager.
“Derek has great devotion to the lumber industry, and it is truly in his blood with his father and both brothers still also working in the sector today,” says his wife Danielle Gordon-Broome. “In the past two decades, he has seen SPL grow from a smaller seasonal sawmill into a much larger, very modern facility. He works extremely hard and takes great pride in the role he has played in making SPL the well-respected lumber mill that it is today.”
Area Forester, Western Woodlot Services Co-operative,
Andrew Oliver might be young, but his resume is already dotted with experience from the private sector, government and NGOs all across Canada.
A former colleague, Ryan McIntyre, describes him as someone who makes sound forest management decisions.
“Andrew is incredibly thoughtful. His decisions are guided first as a responsible steward of the forest and he is admired and respected by every individual who is fortunate enough to work alongside him,” McIntyre says. “He is an outstanding forester.”
The 37-year-old has spent time with the Government of Alberta, Northern Pulp and is now employed by a private woodlot owner services co-operative in western Nova Scotia, providing leadership and reliable forest management decisions guiding practices. He has been an RPF in both Alberta and Nova Scotia, is an active member with the Registered Professional Foresters Association of Nova Scotia (RPFANS) where he volunteers his time as a registrar, and is often asked to represent the association in discussions and consultations with government, industry and ENGOs.
Outside of work, Andrew is an avid outdoorsman and is about to become a father.
Operations Manager, Woodtone Specialties,
Jon Carey’s career in forestry had humble beginnings – he started as a general labourer tasked with stacking lumber.
But it didn’t take him long to start climbing the ladder, working his way into the quality control department as a quality audit technician.
In 2003, he joined Woodtone Specialties (previously Synergy Pacific), a finger-jointing and laminating facility of both structural and appearance-grade engineered products in Spallumcheen, B.C. His current role is operations manager, though Hal Hanlon, president of the Armstrong division at Woodtone Specialities, calls that title a bit misleading.
“It is difficult to apply a title to Jon as he leads the implementation of a multi-species, multi-product business plan for engineered wood products that represents what the forest products industry ultimately needs to look like in British Columbia,” Hanlon says.
Jon, 37, is responsible for production scheduling at the plant, which is unionized, has more than 100 employees and produces more than one million board feet of engineered wood products every month.
It’s akin to a game of three-dimensional chess, Hanlon says.
“If you think you know something about wood and value-added wood products, there is always more to learn – and Jon can teach you,” he says.
Integrated Environmental Services Manager, Strategic Natural Resource Consultants,
Port McNeill, B.C.
In 2016, Kim Lefebvre uprooted her family and moved to Vancouver Island to pursue a passion: Servicing the complex array of challenges inherent in applying ecosystem-based management in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.
Prior to the move to Port McNeill, B.C., Kim had established her career in the B.C. communities of Mackenzie and Campell River. She is a graduate of UBC’s Forest Resources Management program and obtained two executive education certificates from the university’s Sauder School of Business.
In Port McNeill, the 39-year-old has recruited and developed a team of foresters and biologists – growing it from two to 10 employees. They’re responsible for a diverse range of areas, including silviculture, forest planning, stewardship, ecosystem analysis and restoration. They also undertake biological assessments for wildlife.
She has been instrumental in attracting young forestry graduates from across Canada and around the world, including Germany, the United Kingdom and Brazil. As a mentor, she has fostered a culture of learning and development for her teams. This includes office-wide lunch-and-learn sessions focused on technical knowledge, safety, communication skills and leadership.
“In a sector that struggles with recruitment and retention at the best of times, particularly in rural and remote communities like Port McNeill, this is a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to her leadership,” says Jonathan Lok, managing director with Strategic Natural Resource Consultants.
Kim also has a passion for Indigenous rights. Her work towards reconciliation has been instrumental in establishing BlueGreen Environmental Planning Corp., a joint venture between her employer and the Quatsino First Nation. It is focused on increasing participation, occupational skills and economic return from the forest resources for Quatsino First Nation.
Control Systems Specialist, Tolko
Industries, High Level, Alta.
If forestry has a Tony Stark – the legendary technical genius from Marvel’s Iron Man – it just might be Brett Erickson.
After finishing a bachelor’s of applied science in mechatronic engineering at Simon Fraser University, he participated in a 20-month co-op term at Tolko Industries working on a wide range of projects.
Brett, 29, has helped push technological advancements in diagnostic systems at Tolko’s High Level, Alta., mill and was recently awarded a company-wide Innovation Award.
The diagnostics system for the sawmill monitors devices and alerts maintenance personnel when issues arise. It’s a massive project that keeps an eye on more than 100 devices on each line. It was so successful that the company applied it at each of their sites across Canada.
“Brett’s focus on innovation and desire to push the boundaries of what we can do in sawmills is what will keep this industry advancing far into the future,” says Jessica Rempel, a colleague at Tolko. “He truly is one of the best and brightest in the industry.”
He has also received accolades for a high-efficiency HMI screen. Following new industry standards, Brett removed almost all colour from the screens so the operator can be quickly notified of an issue. The HMI screens not only work well, but they are also visually impressive.
“Picture the computers in Tony Stark’s Iron Man lab and you’d be on the right track,” Rempel says.
Owner, Foresterie Jonathan Simard,
Jonathan Simard might be the youngest person to make this year’s list, but he’s packed a lot into his 26 years. He is the head of a forestry company with seven machines, including three harvesters (two multis and a saw head), two transporters and two excavators.
He started working for his father, a forestry contractor on private lots, at the age of 14, before making the jump to the harvester at 15. Even though he loved working in the forest, he still decided to continue his studies in civil engineering at Cégep. But, after a year, he realized that a desk job was not for him, and he went on to complete a professional studies degree at the Centre de formation professionnelle de l’Estuaire in forestry.
After that, he returned to work with his father – but soon realized they didn’t share the same vision. So, at age 20, he took the plunge by starting Foresterie Jonathan Simard.
Based in Côte-Nord, Que., in Baie-Comeau, the young entrepreneur has achieved this feat without working with sawmills in the region. “I wanted to stand out by offering a turnkey service for harvesting in private forests, but also for fixing roads and for specialized deforestation contracts – particularly for mines and power lines,” he says.
To date, he has hired seven people at his company. Right now, he’s working on a de-forestation contract for the Micoua-Saguenay power line.
“I like what I do because I’m not dependent on anyone,” he says, adding that he is open to working in public forests if the opportunity arises.
Assistant Forester, Interfor
As a climate change activist, Margo Lore is dedicated to sustainably managing Canada’s forests.
In her role as an assistant forester at Interfor, she is tackling a wildfire urban interface project, working to reduce forest fuels. Her leadership at the company has resulted in partnerships with local license holders and a proposed cutblock that meets the fibre utilization and fuel management needs of the community. The goal is to make it a safer place in the event of a wildfire.
She also recently completed a Climate Change Adaptation Fundamentals course, and is using this knowledge to make recommendations on incorporating adaptive measures into Interfor’s forest stewardship planning.
“Margo is an integral member of our team, able to accept and meet any challenge that comes her way,” says Ron Palmer, Margo’s manager.
She has recently been taking on a leadership role at Interfor, managing its bark beetle funnel trap program. These traps reduce the number of insects that could attack the trees and mitigates the risk of an epidemic.
Margo, 28, is also one of Interfor’s drone pilots. She plans and flies the drone around post-harvest cut blocks, collecting and organizing data for processing, which is then used in many post-harvest applications.
“This year, Margo has taken the initiative to act as a mentor for our summer students,” Palmer adds. “She reviews, updates and monitors our summer student program and objectives. She has taken a hands-on approach to ensure our summer students have a safe, productive and rewarding term at Interfor.”
Forestry Professor, Sault College,
Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Adam Hodgson’s journey into forestry began when he planted a white pine seedling in the backyard of his home in New Brunswick. He was only eight years old.
In high school, he explored tree planting opportunities close to home and in British Columbia. His drive, energy and determination – coupled with a love of nature – led him to become a prolific planter. In three summers, he planted more than 285,000 trees.
Adam enrolled in the forestry technician program at Fleming College in Lindsay, Ont. As a student, he spent a summer timber cruising for Waugh’s Woods in northern Manitoba. After graduating, he worked as a tree marker for the forest authority in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park. He also did block layout with Waugh’s Woods and decided to further his education by obtaining an HBScF degree from Lakehead University.
He then took an intern position with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Chapleau, Ont. He stayed in that community to join Tembec as an area forester, a position he held for four years.
Looking to diversify his experience, Adam then accepted an area forester/manager job with Fountains Forestry in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. He later moved on to EACOM as an operations superintendent before stepping behind the desk as a forestry professor at Sault College.
“Here, Adam shares his passion for sustainable forest management to the next generation of forest technicians,” says his wife Becky Hodgson. “Adam is 38 years old and has spent 22 years passionately working to better the image of the forestry sector.”
Owner, First Pass Oilfield Contracting,
Grande Prairie, Alta.
TJ Mattson was born into logging – the third generation of his family to work in forestry. He joined First Pass Oilfield Contracting as a process operator, working his way up to roles such as harvest manager and operations manager.
In 2014, he stepped into a management role, and, in 2016, the now 38-year-old officially acquired the company.
“He is committed to succeed not only with the client contract but also with the timberland industry,” says his father Randy Mattson. “He is always seeking ways to improve production and make improvements for the company and employees.”
First Pass has been successful in securing long-term contracts with major oil companies for the clearing of pipeline and lease sites.
“TJ has a very strong work ethic and solid leadership skills, as do all of my children. He is on the road most mornings at 4:00 a.m. He’s out scouting the roads and weather for the safety of the employees,” Mattson adds.
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