The “seeds” of Junior Forest Wardens were planted in British Columbia in the late 1920’s, when a few young boys reported a forest fire to a local Forest Ranger. Their story was published in the Forests and Outdoors magazine, the official publication of the Canadian Forestry Association. The response to the story was incredible, and boys from across British Columbia contacted the author wondering how they could help their local rangers.
In response to the inquiries, Charles Wilkinson, the local manager from the Canadian Forestry Association, decided to teach boys about forest protection and established the Junior Fire Warden program. By 1930, 300 boys in the province were involved in the warden program. In 1935, the “Red Shirt” uniform was created and first worn, and the movement truly began, with clubs starting in Vancouver and spreading throughout the province.
As the program grew, sisters of the active wardens became interested and wanted to take part. In 1944, the Girl Forest Guards were formed and continued to grow to a wider audience. In 1974, the two groups were combined to form Junior Forest Wardens.
The Junior Forest Wardens became a national program on February 16, 1962 when the Honorable Norman Willmore, on behalf of the Government of Alberta, officially accepted the Alberta Charter at a meeting of the Alberta Forest Service.
Currently, there are clubs now found in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.
Official History of Junior Forest Wardens
Read on page 7 of the attached British Columbia Forest History newsletter, about how the Junior Forest Wardens celebrated their 58 year anniversary back in 1988. A plaque indicating the "Junior Forest Warden Tree" was placed next to a Douglas Fir planted on May 2, 1931 to commemorate the founding of JFW in 1930.
-- submitted by Gerry Burch, one of the original members of JFW, who continued to be involved throughout his career.
Tree Planting Record!
On May 18, 1999 a world record was set for tree planting in a single day. 30,083 white spruce were planted by students Grade four to grade nine from the Fultonvale Elementary/Junior High School from Ardrisson. Junior Forest Wardens also took part. The planting took place at the Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area. It was published in the 2000 Guinness Book of World Records, although it has since been broken. Ernst Klaszus (Mr. Tree) arranged for the trees. For some reason the Junior Forest Wardens were not mentioned.
-- submitted by Garry Nelson
A Brief History
During the 1920's, Forest and Outdoors magazine, an official publication of the Canadian Forestry Association, included a regular section called “Young Canadians” devoted entirely to the activities, interest and education of boys and girls. The magazine was widely read and very popular, especially amongst the young people of British Columbia.
In 1929, a story published in this section which was to have an effect upon its readers and upon history far beyond anything its author could have expected. The story was set at Snug Cove on Bowen Island, and concerned two boys. It tells how they discovered a fire in the bush, reported it to the ranger, and helped him put out the fire. The ranger remarked, “Boys. I wish we had more people like you to help in stopping this forest fire.”
The response to this story was incredible. Boys from all parts of the province wrote in to the author inquiring about how could they help the ranger like the boys in the story. Somewhat overwhelmed by this reaction, the local manager of the C.F.A. Office, Charles Wilkinson, and his associates, who were looking for a new approach to fire prevention, decided to revise the current system of education and use kids to teach adults about forest fire prevention.
So the Warden Movement was born. The Junior Forest Wardens were the first environmental youth organization formed in British Columbia. From the outset, the scheme caught on and spread like a forest fire. A badge was designed and cast in bronze. School Principals were invited to select the first candidates for membership, who were installed at public ceremonies. Each Junior Forest Warden became the representative for the Association in his District.
Organizer of this band of young boys was Charles Wilkinson who became their Chief Warden and came to be known as “Skipper” to thousands of boys, as he led red-shirted Junior Forest Wardens in parades in the lower mainland of B.C. It was strictly a boys organization until 1944 when the Girl Forest Guards were formed by Bill Myring's wife Margaret.
In 1942 Charles Wilkinson offered Bill Myring the job of touring British Columbia, lecturing on conservation and organizing Junior Forest Wardens.
Two years later, in 1944 Charles Wilkinson resigned to take up ranching in the Caribou, as owner of the Flying U Dude Ranch. Bill Myring was appointed Chief Junior Forest Warden, and for the next five years, with the aid of one secretary and a small budget great strides were made across British Columbia, by a movement with dedicated volunteer leaders, only 14 years old.
Charles Wilkinson passed away November 18th, 1978.
Bill Myring held the position of Chief Junior Forest Warden until becoming National Chief Junior Forest Warden when the program came to Alberta in 1960. He held that position until his death on December 5th, 1989.
Ken Kelsey became the National Chief Warden until he retired in 2000. Ken died in 2010. Dave Cullen became the Chief Warden in 2000 and still holds the position.
It is interesting to note that in the eighty five years of the program there has only been 3 National Chief Wardens.
-- submitted by Garry Nelson
50th Anniversary of JFW in Alberta
June 16, 2010 - 50th Anniversary of JFW in Alberta. Commemorative tree planting ceremony in Edmonton.
Ceremonies were hosted at regional events throughout the province spring and summer of 2010 to commemorate Junior Forest Wardens 50th Anniversary in Alberta.
On June 16, 2010, a very special ceremony was held in the southeast grounds of the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton. Nearly 30 JFW members in uniform joined the Honourable Minister Mel Knight to commemorate our Alberta history and planted a white spruce together during the lunchtime event. The tree and its location is marked with a bronze plaque detailing the story that includes adding soil collected from all AJFWA clubs to the tree's roots.
Minister Knight was presented with his own Junior Forest Warden uniform, and a plaque that states he had been made an Honourary Member of the Alberta Junior Forest Warden Association, in recognition of his and the departments support of the program.
Minister Mel Knight
Chief Warden of Canada Dave Cullen planting JFW Tree
Chief Warden Emeritus Ernst Klaszus
& Chief Warden of Alberta Terry Garrett