Planning sustainable forests: Q&A with Trina Tosh of Mercer Peace River Pulp
By Kristina Urquhart
Trina Tosh is the woodlands operational supervisor at Mercer Peace River Pulp.
Pulp & Paper Canada talked to Tosh and several other women working in the pulp, paper and forestry sector for a weeklong series to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. In her Q&A below, Tosh tells us how the industry has seen more gender diversity since she first started working in the woods.
Name: Trina Tosh
Role: Woodlands operational supervisor
Employer: Mercer Peace River Pulp
Lives in: Peace River, Alta.
Years in industry: 12.5
Pulp & Paper Canada: What do you do as woodlands operational supervisor at Mercer Peace River Pulp?
Trina Tosh: I prepare and plan for approval both our annual harvest plans and five-year final harvest plans, and our five-year general development plans. I work with our operations group and our strategic planning group to make sure that we’re following all the rules so we start to put it out into the field.
We just finished doing a lot of the work for the Alberta Vegetation Inventory. And we’re putting together all of the different layers that go into the detailed forest management plan, working on where we are planning on harvesting over the next 10 to 20 years. And then putting it through different forestry models to make sure it’s sustainable.
PPC: What gives you the most satisfaction in your job?
TT: It’s nice to see all the plans I’ve worked on being actually executed out in the forest, and knowing all the detail that went into those plans to keep this forest sustainable. I work with a lot of the communication, putting our plans out into the public and to our stakeholders. We’re getting a lot more positives than negatives. It really confirms that the public likes what we are doing out there.
PPC: Mercer Peace River was just named one of Alberta’s Top Employers. What’s your favourite thing about the mill’s culture?
TT: You can easily develop and broaden any skills. I’m a registered professional forester and every year we have to keep up certain amounts of courses to keep our certification. They encourage it; everyone is willing to help everyone else. Mercer is definitely ahead of the pack on bringing new research to the table. It’s a very welcoming environment.
PPC: When you began your career, what drew you to the industry?
TT: I really enjoy being out in the forest. Growing up, we owned a farm. My dad and brother both worked oil fields so I’ve been out in the bush almost all my life. I enjoy being out there and I also enjoy putting all the plans together – it’s all the pieces from the water, plants and frogs, all the way up to the trees. We put it all together and we take everything into consideration.
PPC: Did you have mentors as you started in the industry?
TT: I had male mentors – there were no females. There were very few females that were in the industry when I first started. There were a couple of male individuals who were really good. They took me out and showed me what needed to be done, and answered all the questions I had. They were very welcoming for anybody to come into the job.
PPC: Did that help as you entered a male-dominated field?
TT: It was still hard. You did have to make sure you proved that what you were doing was true. You had to do that little bit more work to make sure that everything you said was right on the target, because there were a few men who would question if what you were saying was [legitimate]. They don’t just take it at face value. But there were a lot of very good people who were willing to answer and help me along.
PPC: Have you seen those kinds of attitudes – like not taking you seriously – shift during the course of your career?
TT: I knew going into it that there were very few females in the industry. But it’s nice to see more coming in and willing to take that chance and put themselves in those environments. And to see the fact that those environments are changing enough for more women to come into them.
Our workforce at Mercer has been very stable. There’s two of us [women] that are there [in my department], but we work with a lot more women in some other companies. They all have had a lot less questioning of their abilities. And there are more women coming up through the forestry courses, and out in the actual field working with equipment or managing projects. They are accepted more out in the field as equals.
PPC: Do you still find barriers in your role?
TT: There are still a few. It is getting better. But there are still people carrying the stereotypes that there are only certain jobs for women in forestry. But there are getting to be fewer of them.
And there are still a few misconceptions about how forestry is done out in the forest. Once you talk to [people], and show them pictures about how we do things and what we look at, they understand. But there is a lot out there, especially some of the media showing pictures that are wrong, that don’t represent what we are doing out there. It’s a lot of public perception that we have to overcome right now.
PPC: What advice would you give to someone, especially a female, thinking about a career in the forestry sector?
TT: Definitely take the chance. Don’t let old stereotypes hold you back. But also be strong and put forward what you have. Don’t be quiet. There’s lots of room out there for women in the forestry and pulp and paper industries.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
This post is part of CFI, Pulp & Paper Canada and Canadian Biomass’ Women in Forestry project celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8. Find more content here and follow on social media with the hashtags: #WomeninForestry as well as #IWD2020 and #EachforEqual.