Smoky River Bears looking for new members

The group of outdoor enthusiasts meet frequently to focus on ecology, leadership, outdoor skills and forestry. They are hoping to increase the number of participants in their group and are asking anyone interested to reach out to participate.

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

A local chapter of Junior Forest Wardens (JFW) is looking to increase their membership.

Smoky River Region’s Smoky River Bears are inviting youth to join its club to learn about ecology, leadership, outdoor skills and forestry. JFW is a fun and education opportunity for young people and their families to develop skills and become educated about the natural environment.

“The program is for kids from six to 18, and is family-based,” explains Smoky River Bears’ Brenda Moore.

“The parents are involved in the program and must accompany their child to all events. If the family has younger children or other siblings not enrolled, they can also attend events.”

JFW are a national group that has clubs in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland. Started in 1931 by a forestry worker in B.C. who thought it would be advantageous for kids to learn to report forest fires.

“The biggest presence in Canada now is in Alberta,” says Moore.

“There is a provincial society that covers liability and backup for all the local clubs,” she adds.

Smoky River Bears meet twice a month, with one meeting on a weekday evening and one weekend outing.

“We do several campouts per year and canoeing trips, as well as practicing our survival and foraging skills,” she says.

“We only have regular programming from September to June, but the club often gets together over the summer to canoe and camp together.”

Moore says another great part of being involved in JFW is the national camp that is organized once every 3-5 years by the provincial organizations. She says over 800 people from across Canada merge together to learn new skills and to interact with one another.

“There are also other camps organized for the different age groups across the province, and summer outreaches,” Moore says.

“It is hard to get kids enrolled in JFW now because kids are so involved in organized sports and are easily entertained at home with electronics and so on, so we have a very small club with just seven wardens.”

Moore says they are hopeful to increase the number of wardens who are involved, saying that it is a very rewarding club to be a part of and there are many things for youth to learn as members of the club.”

The club has a nominal fee mandated by the provincial organization each year. Moore says the fee is $60 right now, but that could change if the provincial organization decides to increase it. If wardens have to order a new shirt and manual, the total cost could be upwards of $180. A bonus of enrolling children is there are not many fundraising campaigns
when part of the wardens.

“We do highway cleanup every year and that is pretty much it,” Moore explains.

“We also receive some funding from the provincial organization every year from casino funds. All the clubs receive some money from that, with extra if you can send people from your club to work the casinos.”

Moore says most of the activities they do don’t require a lot of funding, as most families are set up for camping activities already.

“We do sometimes hire presenters or pay for the kids to attend camps or organize more expensive outings,” she says.

“This winter we went dogsledding, and last winter went to Jasper for a hiking and ice climbing trip.”

Moore says interested parties can reach out to her by email at bubsey@telus.net. She is currently acting as a resource person for the club and says that even though her son is over 30, she still loves the group so much that she continues to participate.

Current president is Cheryl Isert and the coordinator is Shannon Soucy. Moore urges anyone interested in the outdoors to reach out and become part of the Smoky River Bears.

The Junior Forest Wardens local chapter Smoky River Bears recently went on a canoeing trip to Kimiwan Lake to practice survival and foraging skills.

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