Green Job Helps Preserve Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

Canadian Parks & Recreation Association
/April 18, 2024

While taking a plant identification class, Claire Viray was astonished to learn that several Vancouver parks have a widespread presence of invasive plants. The student, who is currently enrolled in a forestry diploma program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), wanted to do something to help the situation. In her second semester, she took a vegetation management course, where she learned about the impact of these invasive plants and how to manage them. During the summer of 2023, Viray was able to use her knowledge to make a difference on-the-ground while working as a vegetation management assistant for the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation in Cochrane, Alberta.

“I recently transitioned from working in the healthcare field to studying forestry. Apart from coursework, I lacked experience in the environmental sector, which posed a challenge in finding employment,” explains Viray. “This job enabled me to gain experience in the environmental field, exposing me to various career paths and helping me determine my interests.” The forestry student was given this opportunity thanks to funding from the CPRA Green Jobs Initiative, which is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Skills Strategy program. The Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation works to protect Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, which includes 3,200 acres of grasslands and is an active cattle ranch. The park is also home to many different animal species, spanning 10km of the area’s Bow River. As a vegetation management assistant, Viray reviewed maps of the park’s invasive plant species and helped remove them; she also conducted surveys to map their presence.

The position provided Claire with an opportunity to use a wide range of skills – from tending to the native plant garden around her office building to drafting newsletter articles to replacing bird strike prevention decals. “I have gained a wealth of knowledge about natural areas management for ecosystem preservation,” Viray says, adding that she gained important hands-on skills that will help her pursue a career in vegetation management. For instance, she learned that different invasive plant species require various methods for removal. She also learned how to properly use herbicides for invasive plants that are difficult to remove manually. In addition, Viray learned how to help the park’s environments – and its wildlife – thrive together. “I gained insights into pond restoration techniques, particularly willow staking, which helps stabilize the banks and, once fully grown, will create habitat for wildlife,” Viray says, adding that she also learned about how beavers in the park impact the area’s trees. “During winter, when the Bow River freezes, ice sheets hinder the growth of new trees along the riverbanks. Without intervention, beavers might deplete the remaining trees over time.

Protecting some trees with wire installations at their bases may be necessary.” Blake Weis, conservation program coordinator for the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation, was Viray’s supervisor and says the funding support was incredibly valuable for the organization. “Invasive plant removal requires a lot of hands,” he says. “It really, really helped to have that extra manpower.” He adds that Viray’s educational background in plant identification and ecology were beneficial – but her positive attitude also helped her excel in the role. “She was always very willing and eager to grow and learn,” Weis says. Viray says that the job also gave her the opportunity to work with “an exceptional mentor” who made a lasting impression as she embarks on her career. “This experience and opportunity wouldn't have been as meaningful without Blake’s guidance,” she says. “He imparted invaluable knowledge, making this role more of a learning experience than just a job focused on tasks.”

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