Matt Wilkie

For me, working as a professional forester is more of a lifestyle than a job.

I am a registered professional forester at Weyerhaeuser’s engineered lumber mill in Kenora, Ontario. My primary responsibility is making sure the operation has enough sustainably sourced logs on hand to meet its production goals. The job requires a variety of skills, including a deep knowledge of working forests, environmental issues and contractor operations, along with the ability to build rapport with diverse groups inside and outside the company.

Over the course of my career, I take pride in the strong relationships that I have developed with local stakeholders, including First Nations communities, local towns and government officials. I am honoured to be considered an active member of my community because forestry is a part of everyone’s family, especially in our northern communities.

As an avid outdoorsman, forests play an important role in my family. Not only do they contribute to my source of livelihood, but on the weekends and vacation, I like to spend time outdoors with my wife, daughter, son, foster son and step son. Such a big chunk of my life and time with my family has been spent in these working forests that I once misunderstood.

I started my career in 1988 after graduating from Lakehead University. I began in forestry because I wanted to protect the woods. I thought that I might work for the government because I did not consider working in the industry as an option. I had always heard that cutting trees was bad, until one of my summer jobs was working in the woods on things like regeneration surveys. I learned a lot from that job and realized that the bad reputation given to forestry was not deserved – which is why I Stand Up for Forestry.

I consider myself very lucky to really enjoy what I do on a daily basis. The nice thing about being a forester is that there is no average day, there is always something different to do from one day to the next, including reviewing inventory at roadsides or assessing road maintenance. I also serve on outside groups for the provincial government or forestry associations such as the Ontario Forest Industries Association. One of my favourite parts of my job is getting out in the bush and talking to contractors. These contractors are intelligent and personable, with families of their own at home. They also enjoy their work and are passionate about their role in promoting sustainable forestry.

Being a forester is holistic. I can look at things as both a forester and a recreationist. As an avid hunter, while I am out in a block of cut timber hunting for deer, I take mental notes of the regeneration and regrowth and bring it back to the office. Unfortunately, there are some major challenges in forestry, including contractors on the verge of retiring with no young foresters to replace them. However, one of the biggest challenges is addressing public misconceptions about forestry. Through better education and social media, we are working to change that.

Being in forestry is a great profession, every forester I’ve met is a good person who cares about the land, the environment and local communities. I stand up for forestry because it is a lifestyle that I love.