Since 2013, The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong and the United Native Friendship Center have partnered to form the Stewardship Youth Ranger (SYR) -Ogimaa Binesiiyog Shared Youth Program.

With the expansion of the Ogimaa Binesiiyog SYR Partnership Program to include the Kenora district this past year, our two SYR teams from Fort Frances met up with our new team in Kenora to discover just what goes on at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA). Fort Frances and Kenora teams worked together in setting out a net to gather and examine minnows. ELA staff helped to identify the catch of the day and described ongoing research into fish populations, lake chemistry and watershed management in northwestern Ontario.

To learn more about how MNRF protects water resources in the Fort Frances district, the rangers went out with technical specialists, Laura Edgington and Tanya Wilson, to do a mock shoreline inspection. We learned what to look for in a project proposal and how to orienteer through the forest using a map and a compass. A challenging part of the day was to locate survey pins using metal detectors – not always so easy!

For the big picture, we had visitors from across the border who work with the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board of the International Joint Commission. Pam Tomevi and Jolen Simon, who also work with the Koochiching Soil and Water Conservation District in Minnesota came to tell us about all that goes into managing boundary waters. Jolene gave us some hands on experience using an Enviroscape watershed model to demonstrate the impact that pesticides, farming, construction and deforestation can have on downstream environments. We could see that there are many factors that come into play when trying to keep our rivers and lakes clean and healthy. We also brainstormed ideas on how we can have a positive impact on the environment and reduce our carbon footprint. Overall it was a very informative afternoon!
The season wrapped up with our SYR BBQ at the United Native Friendship Centre in Fort Frances.  Finally, Fort Frances and Kenora teams came together for the Ogimaa Binesiiyog Youth & Elders Summit in Onigaming where we shared our stories with Elders and partners from surrounding communities.

For anyone interested in applying for a position in this program, applications are accepted until May 31, 2019 – contact Angel Nixon at angeln@shooniyaa.org.

Photo: Novalee Kabatay and Rianna Roch (Fort Frances District SYRs) work together with John Everson-Corriveau (Kenora District SYR) on netting at the Experimental Lakes Area.