Forests a big part of who we are in this region

The forests hereabouts provide a good living for a lot of people and have for many decades. Some of them get together every so often to celebrate and reminisce. When it comes to Slave Lake history, forestry goes back much further than oil and gas, and will likely be thriving long after the wells dry up. It’s a big part of who we are.

The Forest History Association of Alberta is an active group with a publication called ‘Trails & Tales.’ It’s latest edition (Feb. 2019) has all sorts of material with connections to the Slave Lake area and is well worth reading if you are interested in local history, forests, the forestry industry, fires or just seeing people you know in a glossy magazine.

For example: Ken Vanderwell of Vanderwell Contractors appears three times in several pages of photos from the 2018 annual general meeting. Matthew Kristoff is there as well; he was presenting on his forestry podcasts.

Who else? Dale Thomas, Con Dermott, Len Allen, Jerry Sunderland, Wayne Johnson, Terry Jessiman, Amy Wotton, Wally Born, Gord Bisgrove. In an article on the 50th anniversary reunion of the 1968 NAIT Forestry class, Harold Evenson appears in a couple of photos. Not named, but prominent in one of the group photos was none other than recently-elected Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn.

Speaking of articles, there’s a nice one on the 75-year history of Vanderwell Contractors. It got started back in the 1940s as a way to supplement the farm income in the winter months.

Another interesting piece (or series of pieces) is on the fire season of 1968. Entitled ‘Seven Days In May,’ it looks at that devastating period from a number of points of view. One is from Dermott, who was a Slave Lake-based government forester at the time. So was Bernie Simpson. There are lots of photos of firefighters from Calling Lake arriving in town to help save the community, in camp and at work.

May of 1968 had a lot in common with that same month in 2011. Hot, dry, low humidity and at the worst possible moment – high winds from the southeast.

It could happen again.

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