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The Alberta Forest Products Association has launched an online forest tour that features one of the province’s most famous faces: Nathan Fillion.

Fillion got his start in Edmonton as part of the Rapid Fire Theatre and Die-Nasty improv groups. He rose to fame after his role in TV series Firefly.

The AFPA launched the Virtual Forest Tour featuring Fillion in hopes of drawing audiences in by combining comedy with education.

“Oh look Alberta, I can see your house from here,” Fillion says in the intro. “Not that I know where you live. To start exploring, select one of the three orange circles. Each one will take you to a different glorious stage within the forest life cycle.

Jason Krips, president of the AFPA, said that the agency wanted a way to make the virtual tours stand out.

“It’s a lot of fun to be able to land Nathan Fillion, local-born actor,” Krips said. “You really got a global name to walk us through.

“It’s super fun and it’s very educational.”

Fillion certainly adds some spice along with the education in his narration.

The tour starts with a pick between young, growing, or mature — but “choose wisely,” Fillion says.

“New forest. Who dis?” is the first thing Fillion says to the tourists in the young forest section.

“Dis looks like a good spot to set up camp. Did you bring the tent… you didn’t,” Fillion says. “Well, that’s going to be an issue. Without a cover that an older forest’s tree canopy provides we’ll have to snuggle up close to maintain body heat.

The three different tours are meant to showcase the importance of all stages of the forest life cycle.

“We’re really trying to educate and inform all Albertans of the benefit of Alberta’s forests,” Krips said.

“There are certain plants and animals that do well in young forests, some that do well in the middle-age forest, some that do well at end of life. But a full-managed forest, where there is harvesting and then rebirth through replanting, is extremely important to the environment.”

Krips added that Alberta’s forest industry actually had a strong 2020 following increased demands for paper products.

“We’re actually very fortunate the forest sector actually was deemed as an essential service, and when you take a look at the the toilet paper and the paper towel and the medical supplies that use fibre, it became a critical stage, too, especially the early on in COVID,” he said. “That started in a really strong year in 2020 after an initial bump down.”

He added that lumber was also sought after as people turned to home renovations as a COVID-safe activity.

The AFPA hopes the virtual tours help Albertans realize the importance the harvesting cycle — which is actually around a 200-year cycle of cutting, planting and growing — is for the environment.

“If you leave those trees too long, they become the hazards for forest fire and pests, which then actually emulate and expand carbon. So it’s important to actually harvest at the right time,” Krips said.

“The forest industry has such a great story to tell from an economic, social and most importantly, an environmental perspective.”

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