Stewardship Youth Rangers

Crew Leader: Sandi Elliott
Assistant Crew Leader: Megan Veniot
OSRs: Christina Vandermeer, Adam Egan, Thomas LePine and Bryce Godin

Want to see what we did all summer?
Watch our Green Video Here
2012 Fort Frances District Ontario Stewardship Ranger Crew: Assistant Crew Leader Megan Veniot, Adam Egan, Thomas LePine, Bryce Godin, Crew Leader Sandi Elliott and Christina Vandermeer
Enivronmental Stewardship Projects:
This summer the Ontario Stewardship rangers of the Fort Frances District have a very busy and exciting schedule. The OSRs this season will be working on a variety of projects in order to develop their knowledge and skills for stewardship of natural resources. These projects will also be excellent opportunities to discover career and employment options for the rangers interested in ecological sustainabilty and natural resources.
Some of the projects already completed this summer include:
  • Wildlife education at St. Michaels School
  • Barn Swallow monitoring
  • Rainy Lake campsite and beach clean up
  • Pine Marten nesting box installation
  • Trail clearing and corduroying at Rocky Inlet trails for the Rainy Lake Nordic Ski Club
  • Removal of Invasive Phragmites, also known as European Common Weed
Some of the educational workshops/presentations we have attended include:
  • FireSmart presentation by MNR fire management staff
  • GIS training
  • Steep Rock Mine tour
  • Participation in a mock forest fire with a MNR fire crew
The goal of the Ontario Stewardship Ranger program is to provide community based work experience, personal development, skills and training for youth who would like to expand on their commitment to natural resource stewardship. Throughout the summer, the OSRs have many amazing projects to complete and look forward to all the exciting opportunities this program has to offer.
We encourage you to say "HELLO" if you see the crew out and about working!
OSRs Thomas LePine and Bryce Godin assist fellow Ranger Adam Egan in installing a Pine Marten nesting box with Brian Love, local trapper, guide and RRDSC member. These boxes are installed to create habitat for pine martens and to prevent decline in their population.
PHOTO CREDIT: Megan Veniot
OSRs Bryce Godin and Thomas LePine, and Assistant Crew Leader Megan Veniot work hard to pull Invasive Phragmites (European Common Weed) out of ditches on HWY 11-71 West of Fort Frances.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sandi Elliott
Training and Education:
In order to work safely and have a successful summer on the job, Ontario Stewardship Rangers and their crew leaders must participate in extensive training at the beginning and throughout the summer. A large portion of this program is also dedicated to education. Some of the training and educational opportunities include:
  • BearWise (bear awareness and safety procedures)
  • ORCKA canoe training
  • Work Place Discrimination and Harrassment Prevention (WDHP)
  • Work Place Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
  • Health and Safety
  • Field communications
  • Bear spray training
  • MNR Aviation, Forest Fires and Emergency Services program introduction
  • Invasive species
  • Species at Risk
  • Wild edibles and native pollunators
  • Plant and tree identification
  • GPS and compass training
  • FireSmart
  • Safe Boating / Man Overboard
OSR Christina Vandermeer assists her fellow rangers in constructing a small platform for crossing a wet portion of the Snowshoe Loop, located on the Rocky Inlet Trail.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sandi Elliott
OSRs and Assistant Crew Lead Megan Veniot get familiar with the maps from Steep Rock Mine in Aitkokan. The crew spent the day touring the mine with expert Tom Nash and learning about the mine's history, operations and the effects it has had on the environment.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sandi Elliott
The OSRs and Summer Experience Student Colleen Hogan, joined Rainy River District Stewardship council member Jeff Johnson, in performing hare surveys east of Fort Frances.
PHOTO CREDIT: Megan Veniot
Q&A Period:
Why do you think this program is important?
This program provides skills and training for youth, personal growth and community based work experience for youth who would like to expand their dedication to natural resources stewardship. We think this program is important because it provides insight and hands on experience in different fields/careers of the Ministry of Natural Resources. This program is a great stepping stone for youth interested in pursuing a career in natural resources and a fantastic summer job. A large portion of this program is educational so this program provides really great opportunities to learn, especially about environmental issues and concerns.
What are you most looking forward to?
Some of the projects we are looking most forward to include the four day canoe trip in August starting in Eltrut Lake and finishing in Little Turtle Lake . We will be clearing portage trails and using a GPS to mark our route in an effort to re-establish one of the historical canoe routes in our area. We are also looking forward to the Canadian Bass Championship where we have a booth set up promoting our program and providing information on animals native to our area, invasive species and species at risk. We will also be assisting the volunteers in fish care by checking temperatures and oxygen levels of the fish tanks. In addition to the fish care, we will be assisting a local MNR biologist in collecting fin samples from some of the fish for a research study.
What do you hope to take away from this experience?
Many experiences! We hope to get as much insight into as many career paths as we can at the MNR. By working as an OSR we get to work with many different professionals within the MNR and experience the kind of projects they do. This job is unlike any kind of job we have experienced before. Education provided with job experience is the best part of it. We expect to be much more educated in natural resources and environmental issues, including invasive species and species at risk.
What the students would like to do after high school?
Bryce Godin: When I graduate high school my plan is to attend college in Alberta in order to pursue a career as a Conservation Officer in either Alberta or the Yukon.
Adam Egan: When I graduate from high school I want to go to school in Guelph or somewhere with a strong biology program. I plan on getting into wildlife management and staying in the region.
Christina Vandermeer: When I graduate high school I plan on going away to the University of Manitoba to either pursue nursing or dental hygiene.
Thomas LePine: When I graduate from high school I plan on attending college in the Fish and Wildlife Technician program and hope to become a Conservation Officer.
General Information:
This program is a summer job for youth who are 17 years of age. Therefore all of our rangers were born in 1995. As an Ontario Stewardship Ranger, they live at home and report to work for 8:00 am and finish work at 4:15pm, Monday through Friday. Our OSR crew is working for 8 weeks this summer, from the beginning of July until the end of August. Usually every team consists of 4 rangers and a team leader, however our team also has a assistant team leader. This position is unique to the program and is a very beneficial position in preparation and planning of the program in Fort Frances, and serves as an excellent experience/training position for a youth who wish to pursue a position as crew lead.
OSR members listen and watch as Rainy River Stewardship council member and Seven Bends Honey Farm operator Rick Neilson shows the interior of a mason bee house. In attendance are Rangers Christina Vandermeer, Adam Egan, Bryce Godin, Thomas LePine and Asst. Leader Megan Veniot.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sandi Elliott
The OSR crew performed fish care and assisted MNR staff with data collection at the 2012 Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship on the Thursday July 26th and Friday July 27th. OSR Crew Leader Sandi Elliott holds a smallmouth bass still so that Ranger Christina Vandermeer can take a fin sample from the fish. Ranger Adam Egan recieves and records the data.
PHOTO CREDIT: Janelle Duffy
Ranger Thomas LePine is taught how to properly lay and handle hose from AFFES Crew Leader Chris Page during a mock fire scenario hosted by MNR fire staff.
PHOTO CREDIT: Megan Veniot
July 25th, 2012 - July 31st 2012
Greetings from your local Ontario Stewardship Rangers! To start this week off we had the opportunity to visit Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung, the Place of the Long Rapids. This is a designated historical site and is one of the most significant centres of early habitation and ceremonial burial in Canada. We were excited to be taught about Aboriginal culture, ancient traditions and to participate in a traditional Pow-Wow. We also learned about the different stages and meanings of a Pow-Wow, as well as enjoyed a traditional feast. Following our lunch, we toured the ancient burial mounds where traces of Ojibway villages are found among the mounds, as well as village sites of more ancient aboriginal peoples. Over all, the day was very interesting and exciting and we appreciate the opportunity of attending. We definitely recommend paying a visit to this amazing attraction!
On Thursday and Friday we set up an information booth at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship. Our display included information in relation to our program, projects we have completed, BearWise, invasive species and some animal identification. After a morning of public education we headed behind the scenes of the Canadian Bass Championship to assist Area Biologist, Darryl McLeod with the fish care. Once the fish were shown off on stage, they were rushed back to the holding tanks where we monitored the temperature of the water, and ensured proper dissolved oxygen levels in the tanks. From the holding tanks, we moved the fish into truck tanks to be released at various locations on Rainy Lake. We also had the chance to assist Resource/Bear Technician, Tanya Johnson, and Summer Experience Student, Janelle Duffy, in the sampling of 300 dorsal fins of smallmouth bass. This was really exciting and very educational. The reason biologists collect these samples is to determine the age and the average length of the fish.
On Monday we traveled up the Cedar Narrows Road to complete snowshoe hare surveys with Rainy River District Stewardship Council Member, Jeff Johnston. We travelled to various sub plots and counted rabbit scat within a one meter radius of the plots. The data we collected will be used to determine the population of rabbits in the particular area. Jeff is a very interesting and knowledgeable man. From our day working with him we learned a lot based on his knowledge and experiences in our district.
Following our rabbit scat count, we spent Tuesday putting our creativity to the test! One of our summer projects is to record and compile a video that will be shown to youth around the province to promote the Ontario Stewardship Ranger program. This video is solely the responsibility of us rangers and there are no limits to our creativity. So on Tuesday we spent most of our day brainstorming and planning what we are going to record! Bye for now!
July 18th-23rd
Hello again from your local hard working Ontario Stewardship Rangers! On Wednesday we headed North of Devlin to check ten different Pine Marten nesting boxes that the Rangers from 2011 constructed and placed in various trees. We checked all of the boxes with some showing signs of being active with Pine Marten; however other animals such as birds have also been known to use these boxes. Pine Marten is a member of the weasel family and is a similar size to a small cat. They have shorts legs, a slender body, a bushy tail, and vary from black to brown. It is very important that we place these boxes around different areas of our district because the Pine Marten is very important for the trapping industry.
On Thursday we travelled to Seven Bends Honey Farm owned by Rainy River District Stewardship Council Member, Rick Neilson. While we were there we had the opportunity to learn about mason bees, taste some delicious honey straight from the honey comb, and experience the bee's life up close. Rick also took us for a tour of his beautiful property where we hunted for different native mushrooms that are safe to eat. We soon learned that there are many different types of mushrooms growing in the district, and to be careful because not all are safe to eat. Some of the mushrooms that we were shown include, the Lobster mushroom, Golden Chantrelle and a type of bolete mushroom. We also got a chance to see Rick's farm pigs which was an adventure of its own! The day turned out to be one of our most memorable, educational, and favourite days so far!
After our honey adventure we drove around different areas of our district mapping out the Monarch butterflies main food source, Milkweed. Knowledge of this plant's whereabouts is very important for biologists because this butterfly is a Special Concern under the Ontario Endangered Species Act. While we mapped Milkweed we also were mapping and removing the invasive plant species, Purple Loosestrife. This invasive plant species is very aggressive and takes over regions of wetlands. Purple Loosestrife does not allow other plant species to grow and reproduces rapidly, thus decreasing biodiversity. It can be identified by its bright purple flowers and square stem however; it is most commonly confused with the native species, Fire Weed. For more information on this and other invasive species, visit the MNR invasive species website.
On Friday we travelled to Atikokan for a tour of the Steep Rock Mine Site with retired MNR employee, Tom Nash. Established in the 1930's, these pits were used for open pit mining of iron ore, and are quickly filling up with water. The pits are incredibly deep, extremely dangerous and only have 15-20 meters of aerated water to support any form of life. Tom explained the history of the mine and the serious environmental and economical problems that should occur if the pits overflow. This was a very historical and informative day and we enjoyed this educational opportunity.
After the weekend we had the opportunity to head out with Chris Pages' Fire Ranger crew to participate in a mock fire scenario. The crew showed us how to set up and use mark three fire pumps; how to lay hose properly; how to safely hold the nozzle; and how to properly store used fire hose by 'melon-ing'. Overall the day was very informative and opened our eyes to more summer employment offered with the MNR. For information on employment with the MNR visit the MNR website. See you next week!
July 12th-17th
Another week has come and gone, but we the Stewardship Rangers are still working hard to sustain our environment! On Thursday we went out to Rocky Inlet Nordic Ski and Snowshoe trail where we spent the day clearing, brushing, and creating a new trail for all the outdoor enthusiasts in our district. During the afternoon we constructed a small foot bridge that will be used to cover a wet spot on one of the hiking trails. It sure has been hot lately but we still pulled through as a team and got the job done. Friday morning we learned what it takes to be FireSmart from the extremely knowledgeable Fire Operations Technician, Travis Gamble. FireSmart is a program that provides information to assist communities and home owners to take action in protecting their properties and nearby natural resources from the risk of wild fires. We were taught how to complete a survey used as a risk assessment. This assessment is used to show landowners and homeowners how they may reduce the risk of property damage/loss if a wildfire should occur. After we became FireSmart, we headed back out to Rocky Inlet Nordic Ski and Snowshoe trails to do more brushing and clearing.
To start the next week off we learned about invasive species from our highly intelligent Stewardship Coordinator, Dave May. Any plant, animal or micro-organism that is accidentally or deliberately introduced into a habitat outside its normal range is an alien species. An invasive species is a harmful alien species whose introduction or spread threatens the environment, the economy or society, including human health. We learned about a number of invasive species, including: European Common Reed, Asian Carp, Zebra Muscles, Spiny Water Flea, and the Rusty Crayfish. We learned about the impacts that these species have on our environment and the steps in order to prevent new introductions and further spread. These species are known to have negative impacts of Ontario's biodiversity. Shortly after, we put our Plant identification skills to the test to remove the invasive plant species, European Common Reed, from the ditches along Highway 11/71. We filled ten garbage bags full of this species within half of a day of hard work, while taking precautions to work safely in the heat. On Tuesday we continued the battle with the invader and collected another twenty bags! We brought the pesky plant back to the MNR for proper and safe disposal. European Common Reed is a environmental problem in our district because it crowds out native vegetation which decreases plant biodiversity, loss of habitat, changes in hydrology and nutrient cycling, increased fire hazards, effects on agriculture, road safety hazards and can even take over our beautiful shorelines. Highway 11/71 is the only known area in Fort Frances District where European Common Reed is found. The rapid spread of European Common Reed in Southern Ontario highlights the importance of our efforts to remove and prevent the spread of this highly invasive plant here in the North West. For more information on this and other invasive species in our area, visit the MNR website.
Time to get back out to the field - hope you are looking forward to our next article on all of our new adventures!
JULY 6th-11th
Greetings from the 2012 Ontario Stewardship Rangers! This is a youth summer experience program through the Ministry of Natural Resources that provides work experience, personal development, skills, and training for youth who want to further expand their dedication to natural resource stewardship. Our team includes four local youth including Adam Egan from Fort Frances, Bryce Godin from Rainy River, Christina Vandermeer from Couchiching, and Thomas LePine from Bear's Pass. Our fearless leaders are Assistant Team Leader Megan Veniot and Team Leader Sandi Elliott.
Our first week starting on July 3rd, began with numerous days of training activities. We were trained in such topics as bear awareness, safe hand tool practices, health and safety, marine safety and GPS training to ensure a safe and successful summer. Throughout the summer, we will continue to have education and training opportunities through a variety of projects.
For our first project we headed over Mrs. Cousineau's Grade three class at St. Michael's school. There we provided an educational presentation on animal species local to our area, such as the red fox, timber wolf, skunk, and barn swallow. It was a very interactive presentation and the students enjoyed the furs, animal tracks and the ranger's enthusiasm. Friday we ventured out to the West end of the district in search of Barn Swallow nesting sites. Barn Swallows were recently designated as threatened species, under Ontario's Endangered Species Act. We spent the day looking under local bridges and culverts to see if they had any signs of Barn Swallow activity. Although we got soaked from the weather change, we had a great time helping our feathered friends.
On Tuesday, we accompanied Conservation Officer Mark Gadawski in cleaning up campsites and beaches at four popular spots on Rainy Lake. We returned to our office with five full garbage bags, and a barbecue. Based on what we found during our hard days work, we encourage people using sites on local lakes to keep them clean! The day was also very educational and rewarding for us as Mark was able to share with us details of day to day work of a conservation officer and provided tips on how to pursue a career in this field. We were also able to familiarize ourselves with Rainy Lake, a real gem in our district.
On Wednesday, we ventured to Mine Center to meet with Rainy River District Stewardship Council Member and local trapper, Bryan Love. We installed fifteen Pine Marten Nesting boxes. These boxes, which were nailed to coniferous trees three meters off the ground, are used to create habitat for Pine Marten. We were educated about the introduction of Pine Martens into North Western Ontario as well as Pine Marten breeding and feeding habits. We hit a few bumps in the road which led to a flat tire, however this gave our team experience with an important life skill - changing a tire on a dusty logging road. Overall it's shaping up to be a great start to what will be a fantastic summer. Look for our articles in the following weeks, for updates on our projects and work in the community
ABOVE: Rangers Adam Egan, Thomas LePine and Asst. Leader Megan Veniot work hard to remove invasive plant species Purple Loosetrife from ditches in the Westend of Fort Frances.
PHOTO CREDITS: Sandi Elliott and Megan Veniot
BELOW: As Ranger Bryce Godin shows, this plant is even prettier when its PICKED! Often mistaken for the native plant Common Fireweed, Purple Loosetrife is harmful in that it out-competes native plants upsetting the biodiversity of the area.

The Stewardship Rangers ran a booth they set up at the Rainy River Valley Agricultural Fall Fair. The crew distributed information and educated the public on invasive species, being BearWise and wildlife identification. They also shared their experiences from the summer and explained the projects they performed throughout.
The Fort Frances OSR crew with MNR Summer Experience Student Colleen Hogan and Rainy River District Stewardship Council Member Brian Love, take a quick break during a 3-day canoe trip near Mine Centre, Ontario. The crew used a GPS to record the canoe route, portages and campsites, as well as cleared portages along the way. This project contributed to a RRDSC project of compiling a book of canoe routes for local outdoor enthusiasts to utilize

The OSRs headed out to Lower Manitou Lake with MNR staff Colleen Hogan, Wayne Nixon and Dan Fox, to clean up an old dump site along the lake's shoreline. The crew returned to town with approximately 20 garabage bags containing mostly old tin, glass bottles and pop cans, as well as multiple bins of broken glass. This is a project that OSR crews will continue with over the next few summers due to the extent of garabage at the site.
PHOTO CREDIT: Megan Veniot