Forestry giant Creighton gone but not forgotten
Canada has lost a living forestry legend. Dr. Wilfrid Creighton, the well-known 104 year old forester, passed away August 17 at his home in Halifax. The passionate environmentalist suffered a fall at home that ultimately led to his death.
Dr. Creighton was not only well respected in the forestry community, he was also often contacted by various media to provide his thoughts on a variety of topics. His perspective of living through the nightmare that was the Halifax Explosion in 1917 - which killed several family members and friends - provided a vivid picture of the horrendous conditions. His daughter, Beth McGee, would see a pall come over her father each year in early December as memories of the catastrophe would rise again.
Born in Halifax in 1904, Dr. Creighton chose a forestry education at UNB in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Upon graduation and difficult economic times of the early 1930's, Creighton opted to take further forestry studies in Germany. He personally witnessed Hitler and the
Third Reich coming to power and recognized that it was time to return to Canada.
In 1934, after some experience with various Canadian companies, Creighton accepted the new position of Provincial Forester in Nova
Scotia. It is was during his career with the Department of Lands and Forests, (now Natural Resources), that Creighton left an indelible mark as our forestry guru. From 1949 to 1969 he served as Deputy Minister for Lands and Forests under seven different ministers. The fact that he survived under numerous ministers is an indication of his recognized value and contributions during this period of time that was reported to be rife with political patronage.
Due to Dr. Creighton's experience and foresight, he was able to enact many programs and activities that were ahead of their time, many of which remain in existence today in some form. Some examples include fire detection towers and local organized suppression teams, scientific forest inventory system, purchasing more than 500,000 hectares of private land for the province, improved forest management treatments and techniques, land surveying, nature education for youth, developing forest product markets, recruiting industry and employment, establishing protected area, and the creation and development of forestry schools.
Dr. Creighton was an active member of the Canadian Institute of Forestry (CIF) for 80 years. He served as the National President from 1957-59. He appeared on behalf of the Institute before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Mines, Forestry and Water. He received the Centennial Medal as a nominee of the CIF. He has been featured in many films and publications, including the relatively recent book, Green Horizons, by Jim Lotz.
Under Wilfrid Creighton, the Department of Lands and Forests entered a period of expansion and expertise that moved the reputation of Nova Scotia into the front ranks of forestry in North America. His way of planting seeds of ideas with Ministers that often resulted in the development of political decrees. His ability to engage with people of all ages and life experience gained him immeasurable respect by those that knew him.
In 2004, Wilfrid Creighton was named as the inaugural inductee of the Nova Scotia Forestry Hall of Fame. He has passed on his passion for managing the 1600 acre family woodlot to his daughter Beth and son,
Hugh. They will ensure that the property is managed wisely in the future as they continue to produce a variety of forest products such as timber, maple syrup, blueberries, Christmas trees, clean water, and wildlife habitat.
On a personal note, it was an honour to know Dr. Creighton. Whether we were walking through his woodlot, leading a tour, speaking with a group of woodlot owners, or simply sitting together talking about the past and present, it was always an interesting and educational experience to spend time with this very special man. He served as a mentor to many. His passion for sustainable forest management, using the latest in science and knowledge, along with good sense, has set a great example for us all. Although our forestry giant is no longer with us in body, he certainly will not be forgotten