News & Updates

Whistler to purchase carbon offsets from Cheakamus Community Forest


"The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is now able to neutralize its corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by purchasing carbon offsets locally as part of its broader Carbon Neutral Operations Plan. This is possible because of the recent signing of an agreement between the Cheakamus Community Forest near Whistler and the Province of British Columbia, which allows the community forest to generate and sell carbon offsets.

Forestry in the Family: Planting Trees for Community Health and Prosperity


By Christian Walli

On my father’s side of the family, the Walli family can be traced in Switzerland back to 1584, when Peter Walli was recorded as having paid taxes to his landlord. The family’s foray into forestry began in 1840, when another Peter Walli became his town’s first forester. On my mother's side, the Gujan family dates to 1625, when Johannes Michael Gujan came from the Engadin valley and was hired to be his town's reverend, when the family began to work the farm and forest lands, while being very active local and national politicians, administrators and professionals.

My first memory of forest fire management was at the age of seven, a few days before the Swiss national day celebrations when the Swiss commemorate the past expulsion of foreign powers by lighting bonfires. Days before the event, students built a large bonfire close to the forest’s edge. It was too close for me. I ran down the valley to tell my uncle, the town’s forester. My mother, who helped the students build the bonfire, was not impressed with my tattling and sent me to bed without dinner.   

My mother, aunts and uncles mainly looked after the farm in the Swiss Alps. At a very early age, we all worked on the farm, in the forest and tended cattle. My father worked in the forest as a contractor, and was one of the first to own and operate a skyline forestry operation, employing mostly seasonal workers from Italy and Austria.

When I was twelve, a few workers asked my father if my brother and I could drive them to Innsbruck. We placed some hay bales on the flat deck trailer, and off we went. Upon our arrival, we stopped in the red light district. I was asked to wait on the red velvet couch. The madam offered me an orange drink while the workers picked their ladies and disappeared behind the heavy, colourful curtains. Later that afternoon when about half way home, the workers signalled us to stop. They wanted to go back. We came home very late that night.

I always wanted to become a forester like my uncle but the family couldn’t finance higher education for four children, and a local career counselor determined that I was best suited to be a watchmaker or cook. At sixteen I accepted a job installing water heating systems, which required considerable local travel to work in ancient monasteries and fancy hotels and villas in places like St. Moritz and Davos.

We worked long days restoring the lobby of a very luxurious hotel in St. Moritz. A Middle-Eastern prince challenged his party of debutantes and local ski teachers to trash the lobby within a given time. All I know is that they met the first part of the challenge.       

One day on the train to work, I found a leaflet describing the vast and beautiful Canadian forests. This was a pivotal moment for me to decide to free myself from the career path chosen for me by family and society.

At age nineteen in July 1963 I boarded my first jet passenger plane and left Switzerland for Canada, one day before I was to enter compulsory army training. In the Montreal airport I encountered my first Inuit people huddled together wearing traditional attire. After a few hours layover in Montreal, I boarded  a four prop Viscount Aircraft to take to the evening sky with roaring engines. I still remember the moonlight reflecting off the many Ontario lakes and lights from the little Prairie towns. In Calgary I encountered my first cowboys on horseback and aboriginal people on the town’s outskirts.

I arrived in Castlegar with only Swiss francs but the generosity of Canadians became immediately apparent. The shuttle to Nelson and bus to Nakusp was allowed on credit. Driving through the Slocan Valley I was unaware of the Doukhobor and Sons of Freedom struggles and almost everything else except for the country’s vastness and beauty. In the small mill town of Slocan, the coffee shop owner offered me a free piece of apple pie with a good sized piece of cheddar cheese and a coffee.

The Swiss were automatically considered to be good skiers, and the Nakusp ski hill was just taking shape. I was asked to teach skiing and it was there I met many local foresters. Soon I was timber cruising, firefighting, and planting and surveying. My boss encouraged me to go back to school, and with the help and support of my wife Ellen, I continued working while obtaining a Bachelors of Forestry from UBC.

At the Leland Hotel in Nakusp, the chambermaid told me that her mother emigrated from my hometown in Switzerland; she was the sister of a lady who, just before my departure, asked me to give best regards to her sister in Canada. The chance of this happening was 1 in 18,931,000.   

I worked at  Canfor, assisting the Chief Forester and looking after their tree improvement program. Later on I developed a nursery, seed orchard and finally a mycorrhizae research division. The corporate environment offered me freedom to participate in new industry endeavours such as the provincial seed and tree improvement committees, and travelling internationally on forestry tours. I was asked to set up Lodgepole pine provenance tests in BC for a major Swedish forest company that had replaced the majority of their Scott pines with BC and Alberta Lodgepole pine. The company ownership and management styles changed, so I moved on from the corporate forestry scene and joined Brinkman and Associates Reforestation Ltd..

The First Planting Contract: Up The Wildhorse in 1970


By Dirk Brinkman

August 1970, fighting fire as a faller north of Golden, I strapped the slashing contractor whose crew started the fire onto the helicopter skid after a fallen tree cracked his cervical vertebrae-- wiring his hardhat to the stretcher basket as a windfairing to protect him on the long flight to Nelson over the Purcell Mountains. Nearly bankrupt for having to fight the fire with his whole crew on his payroll, he was worrying about the bill for all of the timber burnt when he had his accident. Later that week i took a fall climbing. At that moment I truly met Ted Davis, whose climbing caution i had initially misread as timidness, and suddenly realized was expertize.

Brinkman Climate presents at BC Community Forest Association AGM


Joseph attended the 2015 BC Community Forest Association AGM conference to speak about the Cheakamus Community Forest Offset Project, and the potential for more community forest offset projects in BC. He spoke with Ecotrust Canada and the Cheakamus Community Forest on Ecosystem Based Management, Atmospheric Benefit Sharing Agreements with the BC government, and the process of making an offset. It was illuminating to spend time with representatives of the province's 50 community forests - discussing their issues, needs and aspirations. We're looking forward to working with folks we met at the conference to take a deeper dive into the feasibility of a bundled community forest offset project. If you, or someone you know is engaged with a community forest that would benefit from unlocking the value of keeping more carbon in the forest, drop us a line. [email protected]

Business School Tree-planting Admission Essay: Quantifying Greener Goals


By Devon de Langely

I have been immersed in many physically grueling activities throughout my life, from years of high-level competitive sports to reaching the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. To date, tree-planting has been by far the most physically demanding activity I’ve experienced. Planting in Prince George, British Columbia gave me a true perspective on what it means to work hard. It opened my eyes to a world of sheer dedication, sacrifice, motivation, and toughness. I have since tried to apply the life-lessons that I took away from tree-planting last summer to my academic and athletic pursuits.

My goal to be the fastest rookie planter was a long shot, being 17 years old and the youngest at camp. But after only the first training day, Vinnie, the Camp Coordinator and Field Supervisor, took me under his wing, because he said he noticed my potential. For the rest of the season, I was fortunate enough to be put on a 6-person crew alongside my brother Brennan, a second year planter and current Ivey student, and my cousin Miriam. This was probably the best choice that Vinnie could have made. The family competition and drive to out-plant my brother day in and day out, allowed me to quickly develop the skills required to be great. Brennan, Miriam and I learned to work as a team and communicate to ensure the ‘planting block’ was completed the most efficiently and with top quality trees.

Motivation played a huge role in my success as a first year planter. Something about living in a tent out in northern British Columbia for 2½ months makes it really easy to just give up. After overhearing Vinnie, a legend in the tree planting industry, call me his protégé, family and intrinsic values were now not my only sources of motivation.  Every night, I would ensure all my gear was dry and ready for optimal usage to tackle the upcoming day.

Being the only rookie to hit 1000 trees on the first day was a memorable moment. Although I quickly realized my own potential, I truly believed I wouldn’t last the season. I overcame adversity, and ultimately I proved to myself that with the right attitude, I could be successful. I soon became the first rookie to hit 1500 and then 2000 trees planted in a day. My most humbling moment was when Erik Brinkman, the Project Manager and son of Joyce Murray, stood up in front of the entire camp and congratulated me on reaching 2000 trees. Erik proceeded to advise all the rookies to strive in their own way to find the motivation and success that I have found.

The truth about tree-planting is that you will become accustomed to pounding your shovel in the ground thousands of times a day, planting in ridiculous rain and heat, being attacked by hundreds of mosquitos and black flies, pulling thorns out of your own forearms, and taking off your gloves after work with your hands looking like shriveled prunes. But the reward to reach my goals and mentally and physically push myself with tree-planting last summer was more than worth the difficulties.

Post Script by Erik Brinkman

Devon submitted this essay in an admission application to Business School and put me down as the reference. All I had to do is sign in and press a button at the bottom of the essay that said either “agree or disagree.”  I pressed “agree,” and then asked him if we could put it in the Newsletter. He agreed.

Five Provinces One Season: The Tree-Running Adventures of the Migrating Smoky Tiger


Hey Brinkman tribe! I’m honoured to tell the tale of my 2014 season of tree running adventures, one for the record books, for your amazement and amusement. Long, varied, with many a sloping and soggy quad trail, fields of brackies as far as the eye can see, tree boxes, slash piles, and so many stubborn and beautiful planter folk. In the end I traversed five provinces in “Elfmist,” my faithful blue ’82 Volkswagon Westfalia. Looking back, it was truly a season that makes me proud to work with you guys. It made me realize how lucky I am just to be a part of this team.

Brinkman Head Office Roll Call: 45 Years of Restoring Ecosystems


By Erik Brinkman

Almost half a century ago Dirk and his BFF (“Best Friend Forever”) John Huizinga travelled to the wild Western frontier of BC as lumberjacks. It didn’t take long for the tree cutting and moose eating to push Dirk and friends to set up tree planting camps where vegetarianism reigned. In 1970, this group of romantics garnered one of the first tree planting contracts in Canada; in retrospect a pivotal moment in Canadian forestry that combined the back-to-the-land fringe movement of the 1960’s with the need to restore and improve what was then a butcherous logging industry. This forest-making movement attracted young vigorous idealists which grew into the Canadian reforestation industry, currently an exemplary model for sustainable forest management around the world. This year we celebrate 45 years of continuous improvement on the frontlines of ecosystem restoration and forestry innovation. How was this all accomplished? With a great community of field workers revolving like a solar system around the Brinkman head office in New Westminster. We recognize and honour all those who keep that office humming along. Here are a few of the highlights of the last year to sing.

Christine Usher, 25 years a tree counter.

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Christine joined Brinkman in the spring of 1990. After two and a half decades of lovingly counting beans (and trees) for the often chaotic contracts, acting as a savior to many frazzled supervisors in the field,  scrambling to find receipts and tally what they were owed, she has the thanks of everyone whose paycheque ever added up correctly. At last year’s Christmas party, management acknowledged Christine with  a special bonus, a trip to anywhere in the world as a token of thanks for 25 years of brilliant service to the Brinkman team.

Tree numbers counted:

Planting more than a million trees by hand is a special honour shared by only a few dozen Brinkman planters. Here we honour the new additions to Brinkman’s “Heroes of the Planet” Millionaire's club.

  • Brinkman total 2014 tree counter: 1,182,345,563
  • New millionaires, showcased on the Heroes of the Planet club

    • Mathew Brady 1,049,927

    • Shawn Driscoll 1,013,613

    • Lukas Mouka 1,071,000

    • Chris D Reid 1,331,488

    • Thom Tarte 1,113,189

    • Jonah Trinkwon 1,445,115

  • Most trees planted in one year

    • Brian Baudry 2011, 275,515

    • Previous record holder, Erik Brinkman 2004, 269,212

Christian Walli, 25 years a forest ambassador.

In 1989 we hired our first professional forester full time, when we decided to buy a couple of nurseries in Ontario. After a decade growing over 100 million trees under Christian’s direction, we sold the nurseries to PRT, but by then we had realized that Christian was the perfect ambassador for the trees. In 1989 we were also developing the idea of a national foundation to handle requests to plant trees for corporations wanting to improve their green bona fides. From this the idea of Tree Canada evolved, and for the last 25 years we have been proud to have Christian speak for the trees to numerous classes, volunteer groups, and corporations, from the most polluting to the most enlightened. Christian was also recently acknowledged with a trip to anywhere in the world of his choosing for 25 years of unfaltering optimism, enlightened wisdom and stately professionalism in service of the Brinkman Group. John Lawrence said it best “Christian was the first professional to work for Brinkman.”

Nenita Shannon, well-earned retirement.  

After almost 20 years with Brinkman, Nenita Shannon (Accounts Payable), has announced her retirement. With her characteristic giggle and smile, she added, “when I first came, I only meant to stay a year!” For most of us, she will have rushed a cheque through at some point during those 20 years. If that was you, you have likely experienced her endearing ability to laugh when she feels rushed, her subtle and kind way of getting you to wait in the lunchroom instead of hovering over her desk, and foremost her willingness to put a Brinkman employee first. Beyond her joyous playful demeanor here are a few statistics of her tenure with Brinkman to share: 

  • 104,260 pieces of mail opened

  • 34,845 cheques produced

  • 5,210 times she has monopolized the Province newspaper in the kitchen

  • 3,120 trips to the bank

  • 245 treats brought in to share with the office

  • 63 trees planted

  • 1 retirement announced

Office Upgrades!

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Update for the West Coast: Got Shorts and a Rain Coat?


Every year is different and every year remains the same. We all work, we all have friends and family, and we all have goals and dreams. A select few of us come together for a brief moment in time here in Western Canada, burning calories and candles at both ends, reveling and struggling with our resolve in each day’s effort. We marvel together at having expended enough energy to make a sprint of marathon sized dinners, and sprint each night through our meal to an empty plate and a hot shower.

Is Tree Planting a World's Toughest Job?: BBC Reality TV in a Brinkman Camp


By Dawn Brinkman

It had been over a year of back and forth with the TV producers and their proposal of a tree planting reality documentary before the three British rookies hit the Prince George tarmac in mid-May of 2014. The premise of the show is how the unemployed youth (18-25) of Britain hold up in the BBC series World’s Toughest Jobs. During this “courtship period” we made it clear how difficult the job is, and outlined the qualities we look for in a rookie planter. We weren’t paid to host the show at our camp, but candidates with work visas could potentially learn how to carry out honest hard work and become fast, money-making returning planters, that is, if they were cut out for the job.