A local cooperative is being recognized for its role making employment accessible.

Athol Forestry General Manager Ian Ripley reviews a forestry management plan the cooperative works on. Athol Forestry was recognized with the Lt. Governor’s Persons with Disabilities Employer Partnership regional award this week.

Athol Forestry Cooperative received the Lt. Governor’s Persons with Disabilities Employer Partnership Award during the Annual Ability Starts Here Symposium in Halifax on Dec. 1. The regional award recognizes Athol’s partnership with the Canadian African Nova Scotian Association to employee and train persons with learning or physical disabilities for an eight-week period.

“These individuals were trained in safety regulations, handling of equipment, identification of plants, and practical application of this information…  Athol Forestry is an employer that looks for abilities, not disabilities,” the cooperative’s nomination read.

It’s an honour Athol is pleased to receive. Working in the woods is not for everyone, general manager Ian Ripley says, but everyone should have the opportunity to decide for themselves and Athol Forestry was happy to open that door to a number of individuals.

“It helped some decide this is not a career path for them, but we also had a few who said this exactly what they are looking for. They love it.”

Athol Forestry formed in 1977 when a small group of private woodlot owners recognized they could accomplish more together and has since grown to more than 250 members and subcontracts half a million dollars of work to local contractors annually. Membership with the cooperative requires woodlot owners to possess a minimum of 50 acres, but staff with Athol Forestry can help smaller land owners develop management plans built on their interests, Ripley says.

“We often help people manage forests for timber value down the road, but we also help manage forests for other values, whether its for recreational purposes, if it’s for wildlife, whether its for esthetics, we’re that unbiased opinion to help you get to where you want to be with your woodlot.”

To learn more about Athol Forestry, visit www.atholforestry.com. To learn more about the annual Abilities Starts Here Symposium, visit www.abilitystartshere.ca.