Mike Pedersen’s interest in forestry first began when he was a child.
Growing up in Middleton, N.S., he often travelled around the province with his father, who was a log buyer.
“I can remember as a kid watching these guys. At the time they didn’t have those debarkers you see in mills now.”
He would observe as workers, with eight-foot logs sitting on saw horses, used sap peeling knives to peel off the bark off and then throw the logs up onto the pile.
“I just loved the smell,” he recalled.
Fast forward to 2020 and Pedersen has been working with forestry in B.C. since 1981.
Today he is the regional executive director of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development for the 100 Mile, Cariboo-Chilcotin and Quesnel districts.
Before deciding on forestry, he pursued physical education at Dalhousie University, but soon realized it wasn’t for him.
He quit university to work and then decided he needed to do something for his future.
At the time a second cousin was in his fifth year studying forestry at university and Pedersen remembered all the travelling he’d done with his dad.
“I went to my cousin and asked him about it and then enrolled in the University of New Brunswick’s forestry program.”
After graduation, with no job lined up, he left for Edmonton, Alta. in 1981 and was hired by the Alberta Forest Service.
He was there for about four months, when he a saw a silviculture position with the Ministry of Forests in Williams Lake, B.C. and applied.
When the Greyhound bus stopped in Cache Creek he didn’t want to wait for the connection so he hitchhiked to Williams Lake.
“I was a true Maritimer and I can remember seeing tumbleweed rolling down the highway and I thought ‘oh my God, I am really out west.’ Visions that you had of cowboys and stuff were dancing through my head as I was trying to make my way to Williams Lake, but it was pure excitement about being where I was.”
In 1983, he was laid off due to government downsizing. He went to work for a small sawmill in town, called Khalsa, later called Jackpine. He bought wood on the open market and bid on small business sales. He worked with Starline Cedar owned by Dave Bedford for a time, doing log exchanges.
An opportunity to work in Fort Nelson as the district silviculturalist arose in 1985, so he moved there for work and stayed until 1989.
“That’s where I met my wife Erin,” he said. “From there I went consulting in 1989 with Pacific Regeneration Technologies and I did that right up until 1992 when I got a job in Victoria with the provincial government.”
He was a regeneration survey specialist and travelled all over B.C. helping revamp the survey process.
When the New Democrat Party (NDP) brought in the Forest Practices Code in 1995, Pedersen returned to work in Williams Lake, as the forester responsible for the code’s implementation.
Eventually he took on the forest health officer job in the Cariboo, tackling bark beetle and spruce bud worm and working with districts and branch on implementing forest health policies.
Laid off again in 2002, he went to work for DWB Consulting, which was owned by Dave Bedford.
“In 2004 I landed a job with the ministry again as the district manager of the Chilcotin in Alexis Creek.”
He moved into Williams Lake in 2010 to be district manager of the Cariboo-Chilcotin because the government had amalgamated the two districts.”
He stayed in that position until 2016 when he won the competition to be the regional executive director for the Cariboo where he oversees the ministry’s mandate.
“I still enjoy being in the woods. I still enjoy the community that we have here and the ability to be so close to them as well. It’s a very grounding experience.”
Pedersen and Erin, a teacher with School District 27, have three children.
Chris works for Gibraltar Mine as an electrical engineer, Robbie works for B.C. Wildfire Service in Alexis Creek and Alexandra is an environmental engineer with Golder and Associates.
As for the future, he said the time is getting close for retirement.
“I enjoy the job I do right now, but I know there are a lot of smarter and younger individuals who could do a good job in this position.”
Aside from working, he loves to curl and golf.
When he retires he plans to stay in Williams Lake.
“This is my community,” he said. “I really enjoy it and I want to support it as much as I can.”