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Saturday Science – A lad and his sticks

So, what does an 8-year-old lad and 50-year-old forest land restoration professional like to do on a Saturday afternoon? Answer: avoid chores and play with sticks.

As a lad, I would spend long durations outside, entertaining myself in an endless effort to avoid household tasks. During those days, I did not have electronic toys nor the means to participate in organized sports, so I would spend time exploring, usually with my trusted field tool, an old stick. As the years passed, I became creative with my time, and learned a lot during the associated adventures, frequently just in the survival of the should have… and could have… type of events. Nonetheless, one of the greatest gifts I developed during that time was my creativity, fostered when one had to make do with what one has.

And it was the resourceful lad inside the professional forester that re-emerged on a Saturday morning this past April. Once again playing with sticks – this time alive but dormant – I wanted them to grow. And because balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) tree clippings can sprout roots from the stem, this would be a rapid way to test my idea for a homemade growing medium. To be clear, I am not interested in developing a nursery business, garnering a plant collection project, or even tabulating and publishing the findings in a professional Journal. No, I am just curious.

So, how does this story link to the practice of forestland reclamation? Simple, yet complex. Canada’s Boreal Forest has a long list of environmental liabilities awaiting a solution. By attempting new ideas, with a vision that is held in proper tension with the risk of failure, land restoration breakthroughs will inevitably result. I discovered over the years that despite the risk of disappointment, some of the very best Reclaimit-led forestland reclamation solutions were born out of defeat. As a natural resource professional, I would rather face the consequences of defeat after an honest attempt, than settle for a status quo built upon a foundation of fear, complacency, and arrogance. And so, I will continue to play with sticks, staring failure in the face, for an opportunity to uncover more of the yet to be discovered.