Tracey Courser, Planning Superintendent
When Tracey started working in forestry, there were no cell phones, no GPS. Just paper maps. Twenty years later the technology has changed dramatically, but the reason she loves her work is still the same.
This has never been just a job – in her words, she works in forestry because forests are where she feels at home, and it’s not so much a career as a way of life that chose her. The purpose of everything she does is to make sure the forest landscapes she loves will always be here, managed responsibly so that future generations can fall in love with them too. When she’s weighing complicated planning decisions, she thinks of her father – also a forester – and the legacy of forest stewardship she has the chance to continue through her work.
“Whenever I need to answer big questions for myself, I tend to get into my truck and drive down to the old mill site and park in the parking lot across the street, and I can’t help but ask myself what my dad would have done. I feel my dad still, at that mill.”
She’s not alone in having a family connection to forestry, or feeling a deep, personal connection to the forest. She finds that’s the common thread that unites most of her colleagues – a sense of kinship with the outdoors and a goal of making sure we’ll always have forests to explore. It’s a challenging, dynamic field, where a huge array of considerations has to be carefully factored into every plan, but that’s part of the appeal. Every day as a planning superintendent, she gets to help maintain the social, cultural, and spiritual value of our forests for all Albertans.
“They’re such an amazing and diverse ecosystem,” she says. “To protect this resource, it’s important to think about all the things that I learned from my father throughout his career and how I can pass that on to future generations so that they understand the importance of this industry to Albertans. So that we’ll always have these forests, because they’re so important, and because [the industry] provides communities with a way of life.”
The industry community in Alberta is small and close-knit. For Tracey, it’s become a sort of second family, rallied around a shared passion. It’s a community committed to doing the right things for our forests and helping them thrive into the future – not so much for the paycheck, but as a labour of love.
“This is an important industry to Alberta, but it’s also an important resource to all Canadians, not just Albertans. We sit on one of the greatest resources in all of Canada, and it needs to be a sustainable forest. It needs to be viable, and it needs to be maintained for all of its resources, not just the trees,” she says. “We can do this in a way that’s sustainable, that takes into consideration other values, not just economic value, so that everyone is getting the best of both worlds.”