When she was a little girl, Annica Pictin would climb into the cab of her dad’s truck and accompany him on bush cruises through the Kootenays. From Cranbrook they’d travel, with her black Lab, Mocha, through some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in Western Canada, often reaching altitudes that spread out the world, eating their lunches with the Rockies in the background while lakes gleamed in sunshine far below.
The truck was like her father’s second office, one from which he ensured lumber companies adhered to their leases and treated the land with respect.
As Pat Pictin’s only child, the bond between dad and daughter grew tighter on those forest forays, and young Annica began to realize she wanted her future office to be on four wheels, too. Now halfway to her Renewable Resource Management (RRM) diploma, Pictin is a year away from that reality. And when she returns to her beloved East Kootenay, she’ll take with her a love of all things living.
“I get that from my Dad,” says the bubbly, personable 20-year-old. “I hate cutting down even one tree or watching worms dry up on the sidewalk.”
About a year ago, Annica knew she wanted to take Environmental Science at Lethbridge College. Although she had a choice of several programs, Pat Pictin graduated from the equivalent of the RRM program in 1984 (he added a watershed management option two years later, now called Environmental Assessment and Restoration) and Annica only had to look at his diploma to know that was the branch she wanted to pursue.
“Dad warned me it was a difficult program, and he was right,” says Pictin.“But deep down, even though he won’t say it, I know he’s pleased I’m following in his footsteps.”
So, through her time on campus, Annica has been living the curriculum, “blending theory and hands-on learning to gain a comprehensive grounding in fields ranging from zoology and plant taxonomy to statistics, aerial photography interpretation and geographic information systems.” She’ll also “complete field exercises to assess fish populations, use radio telemetry to measure wildlife movements, use GIS to interpret grazing patterns and learn how to apply forestry practices.”
All of which will lead her to “a successful career in the sustainable management of natural resources.” The day of this interview, she was studying for a plant taxonomy exam, committing to memory names such as thermopsis rhombifloria and oxytropsis sericea.
“I had always heard the common names for plants and animals discussed and shown to me when I was out fishing or mushroom picking with my Dad.”
Annica is now considering forest plant taxonomy as her specialization. She envisions a career in range management, ensuring Kootenay ranchers follow proper environmental practices on Crown land.
She could work with animals, which she loves, or work in the Bull River Trout Hatchery half an hour southeast of Cranbrook, a spot at which she always demanded a stop when out with her dad.
Amazing just how wide the reach of an RRM diploma is. And, it comes with a view.
“The scenery in the mornings above Pyramid Creek in the St. Mary’s Valley is awesome; you go up there and you’re overlooking the entire East Kootenay. In the city, I just ball up with stress. Out there, I unwind.”
She is her father’s daughter. Pat Pictin was also born and raised in the Kootenays. During high school in Creston, he worked as a water sampler for Environment Canada, and after graduation spent time in the lumber and construction industries before heading to Lethbridge.
“I attended Lethbridge College because of the practical nature of the program, the proven quality of the curriculum and the high likelihood of a job placement,” says Pat. “I enjoyed the college and found it to be a significant maturation point in my life.”
Following a series of jobs that took him from the Lethbridge Research Station to Alberta Environment and CP Rail, Pat gained full-time work with the B.C. Ministry of Environment in its water management branch, thanks to a friend and Lethbridge College classmate. After promotion to water resource specialist, he joined the B.C. Forest Service in 1997, responsible for a wide range of duties, including prescribed burning, ecosystem restoration, and, when necessary, enforcement of environmental laws.
“I’m very proud Annica has chosen the RRM program, knowing first-hand the dedication required to be successful,” he says.
After Grade 12 and before settling into studies at Lethbridge College, Annica took a year off, much of it spent outdoors.
“I think you spend a lot of high school trying to find out who you are,” she says. “I’m a big fan of music festivals, so we’d camp out for five days listening to music, or just driving to lakes in the area. This summer, I hope to climb Fisher Peak, the highest peak in the Cranbrook area. I’ve never done it, but I hear the feeling of standing at the top is indescribable.”
Two years in a classroom, even one within sight of the mountains, would have been torture for this outdoors gal, but field trips and hands-on learning have given her enough fresh air to make the book learning liveable.
And her passion is not lost on her younger brother Bobby and sister Chelsea, whom she occasionally takes with her on snowboarding and cycling expeditions.
“They look up to me a lot, so I’m trying to be a positive role model,” says Annica. Her father gets the last word here, directed to his daughter and her classmates:
“Don’t be disheartened by the current economic situation. The well-rounded Lethbridge College training will allow you to roll with the punches until your dream job materializes.”