It was a good day to get out and clean the backcountry, but it was made even better by a class of Rutland Senior Secondary (RSS) students.
Okanagan Forest Task Force (OFTF) founder and organizer Kane Blake said the day was made possible because initially, the RSS forestry academy lead teacher Marshall Corbett reached out to him.
Corbett, an avid outdoorsman himself, wanted his students to learn more about forest etiquette as part of the curriculum. So the two set up a day, and on Wednesday (June 9), Blake and several OFTF volunteers met up with the students at a makeshift shooting range on Postill Lake Road.
North Okanagan Zone conservation officer Ken Owens gave the morning’s lesson on enjoying the outdoors safely and with environmental awareness.
“It’s just an amazing opportunity to be able to speak to the class. There are just so many good messages on how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly and safely,” he said.
“And just talking about the dumping issues that we have in and around Kelowna on some of our forest service roads and how we can be part of preventing that from happening and cleaning up what has been dumped in the backcountry.”
Owens said he hopes by showing and telling the students the dumping and its effects, that it inspires them to be the changemakers in their circles.
“I want them to be leaders in their community to ensure that their friends and the people they know aren’t doing this, and that they hold those people responsible,” he said.
Blake said it was exciting to work with the students to spread more awareness about what they do and why they do it. He said it’s even more important to show younger generations the importance of taking care of our backcountry.
“They are our future generation. If we don’t catch it now, we won’t,” he said.
“But if we can help them, even one person, make a difference in their friend groups, then I feel we’ve done our job.
“A lot of people say we need to leave a better planet for our kids and I tell people all the time we need to leave better kids for our planet. The planet doesn’t litter itself… none of these shotgun shells magically grew out of the ground.”
RSS forestry students Kobe Frasier and Jacob Whiting both said it was good to learn more about dumping and what they can do about it.
“When you come into the woods, take more out with you than you came in (with),” Frasier said.
“Seeing this, it’s pretty crazy. There’s lots of wildlife walking through here. This is our backyard, it’s not a place to litter.”
Whiting said with the new things he has learned, he wants to help educate others.
“We learned how to help protect our community and keep it clean and just to make it overall a better place,” he said.
“I want to make sure people are more educated on the forest and help clean up and keep their environment safe, for everyone and for every animal out there.”