A Consultant’s Reflections

As a forest land reclamation consultant, I seek a variety of ways to grow my value as a legitimate problem solver in the remediation of environmental issues in the Boreal Forest. One way I do that is to seek opportunities to confirm my knowledge and challenge my biases. Often, I peer over the fence into other resource management disciplines, to have a look at what they’re doing and see if there might be some ideas to be gleaned. This past June and early July I did just that when I decided to revisit the Canadian forestry sector, once my home for employment, to see how it [and I] changed since 2003. I stepped back almost 30 years, to my formative days of work in the Boreal Forest, to take on the short-term role as a field worker. And it turned out to be a golden opportunity, providing me with a chance to revisit project assignments through the eyes of a boots-on-the-ground worker.

The job of a forest land labourer is not an easy one because of the many responsibilities associated with the role. For example, field workers are tasked with adherence to legal and corporate standards, expected to make and take responsibility for field decisions, compelled to find and field mark features that require protection, and relied upon to supply recommendations around attributes that should be removed from the project scope. This job is not for the faint of heart, as shown in their physical stamina, persistence, and critical thinking skills. The forest worker is expected to complete assignments in a safe, correct, and cost-effective manner while dealing with adverse weather, rugged terrain, poor access, dangerous wildlife, and incessant flies. They are a dedicated group of people.

 

A consultant's reflection on leadership in the forestry industry
While fulfilling the forestry labourer role I had an opportunity to reflect upon how my leadership within Reclaimit projects both removes and creates performance affecting obstacles. And I came up with three items for continuous improvement in my leadership role. First, it takes more time to complete tasks when the commitment to regulatory and customer standards of performance are taken seriously. On one hand, these requirements are in place to prevent an incident, like an accident or negative environmental impact, but on the other hand, they can be considered obstacles to greater productivity because they are time-consuming and reduce production. Human nature is to take the easy route, the path of least resistance. So, upon reflection, the opportunity for me is to work harder when setting up a project to ensure that selected performance measures are truly needed and that they are properly accounted for in the design.

Second, work in the forest is tough. There is no way around it and good physical stamina is essential. Therefore, it is critically important to ensure the workers receive tools that work, plans can be efficiently executed, and there is reliable access to adequate nutrition, hydration, and rest.

And third, it is incumbent upon me as a designer of projects to ensure that the goals remain realistic. Forgetting, disregarding, or overlooking this will set the fieldworker up for failure because they will be unable to deliver a final product that is incident and accident-free, the quality will not be met, or the cost will be neither dependable nor sustainable.

So, the work was good, and I will be back. More themes remain for me to revisit, and many more new ideas await my discovery as I explore the exciting world of Reclaimit’s forest remediation and reclamation services, and travel across the provinces of Canada and around the world in project-related adventures. Have a question about my blog articles, reclamation services, or have a forestry-related question? Click here to drop me an email!

 

Did you like this article? You may also like Saturday Science – A lad and his sticks

Saturday Science – A lad and his sticks

So, what does an 8-year-old lad and 50-year-old forest land restoration professional like to do on a Saturday afternoon? Answer: avoid chores and play with sticks.

As a lad, I would spend long durations outside, entertaining myself in an endless effort to avoid household tasks. During those days, I did not have electronic toys nor the means to participate in organized sports, so I would spend time exploring, usually with my trusted field tool, an old stick. As the years passed, I became creative with my time, and learned a lot during the associated adventures, frequently just in the survival of the should have… and could have… type of events. Nonetheless, one of the greatest gifts I developed during that time was my creativity, fostered when one had to make do with what one has.

And it was the resourceful lad inside the professional forester that re-emerged on a Saturday morning this past April. Once again playing with sticks – this time alive but dormant – I wanted them to grow. And because balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) tree clippings can sprout roots from the stem, this would be a rapid way to test my idea for a homemade growing medium. To be clear, I am not interested in developing a nursery business, garnering a plant collection project, or even tabulating and publishing the findings in a professional Journal. No, I am just curious.

So, how does this story link to the practice of forestland reclamation? Simple, yet complex. Canada’s Boreal Forest has a long list of environmental liabilities awaiting a solution. By attempting new ideas, with a vision that is held in proper tension with the risk of failure, land restoration breakthroughs will inevitably result. I discovered over the years that despite the risk of disappointment, some of the very best Reclaimit-led forestland reclamation solutions were born out of defeat. As a natural resource professional, I would rather face the consequences of defeat after an honest attempt, than settle for a status quo built upon a foundation of fear, complacency, and arrogance. And so, I will continue to play with sticks, staring failure in the face, for an opportunity to uncover more of the yet to be discovered.

 More themes remain for me to revisit, and many more new ideas await my discovery as I explore the exciting world of Reclaimit’s forest remediation and reclamation services, and travel across the provinces of Canada and around the world in project-related adventures. Have a question about my blog articles, reclamation services, or have a forestry-related question? Click here to drop me an email!

 

Did you like this article? You may also like Partnerships of Gold

Partnerships of Gold

When you need a Gold Standard Partner

Have you ever gone alone on a long road trip to a new destination? I have. And the solo venture, as compared to one with some travel buddies, is rarely as exciting as it could be. When I travel by myself, not only is there an absence of conversation in the car, but the trip seems longer, lonesome, and often boring. A journey with friends is my preferred way to travel.

Reclaimit’s reclamation adventures with its service partners are just like a road trip with good companions. Making the expedition more interesting, they join us on our quest to be the industry-leading provider of forestland reclamation solutions. Our carefully vetted and selected partners are some of the best service teams that the marketplace can offer up!

Who do you call?

Reclaimit’s support teams are comprised of industry-leading personnel. These are the people that provide the specialized skills and support infrastructure we rely upon. They are the folks that make the difference in program results, the partners that provide the extra push needed to elevate Reclaimit’s performance outcomes from an adequate to an outperform status. Be they from another consultancy, commercial nursery provider, specialized labour team, or firm that provides a niche product to address a site-specific ecological deficiency, these Partnerships of Gold make into reality the forestland reclamation commitments that Reclaimit is known for and trusted to deliver.

So, whenever the opportunity arises to say a good word about our support network, we do. And this is a place to showcase our vendors of choice, those that receive the first call to support a Reclaimit sanctioned environmental reclamation solution. Therefore, it is with our wholehearted endorsement, backed up by our longstanding business reputation, that we encourage other environmental consultants, environmental service companies, and general contractors to reference our Partners page to learn more about them. And if you decide to give them a call, let them know you heard it from Reclaimit!

More themes remain for me to revisit, and many more new ideas await my discovery as I explore the exciting world of Reclaimit’sforest remediation and reclamation services, and travel across the provinces of Canada and around the world in project-related adventures. Have a question about my blog articles, reclamation services, or have a forestry-related question? Click here to drop me an email!

 

Did you like this article? You may also like Field Equipment Breakdown?? Call a Millennial?!? – Reclaimit Ltd

 

Field Equipment Breakdown?? Call a … Millennial?!?

Last month, when finishing the final portions of reconnaissance for a proponent-sponsored Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) Habitat Reclamation project, we ran into some mechanical issues with one of our snowmobiles. Now, let me start by admitting, without apology, that I do not have any mechanical abilities. None. Not a skill, aptitude nor the interest. So, when a mechanical challenge arises with any equipment my first option is to deny that there is a problem. Then, when that does not work and I can no longer ignore the uncomfortable reality, look for a way to delay addressing it. And should that fail, which it always does, admit the need for help

This mild winter day (-15o C) we are 25 km from the truck via ice road and legacy seismic lines, and spring break up is just around the corner. In short order, I’m quietly strategizing how to do an equipment salvage mission later in the year. And then it happens, my Millennial Mechanics arrive proclaiming, “We have cellular service!!”

 

The next thing I know, a YouTube© video is playing and the problem snowmobile is being disassembled for diagnosis. So, this Gen-X Forestland Consultant assumes his highest value leadership positions to support the team: sit, watch, smile, enjoy a snack, and remain silent

And what happens next? In short order the problem is identified, issue addressed, engine parts reassembled and the motor is… running!  I think it had something to do with the fuel and air intake?! 🤔 🤣 So, with the engine now operating, we opt to demobilize the unreliable unit back to staging, and safely finish the simplest to access candidate sites with the remaining tools on hand and final daylight hours at our disposal

Although the final day of project reconnaissance was not as efficient as I was hoping it would be, because we ended up deferring some final pieces of difficult to access seismic lines for an assessment later in the season, we safely viewed the linear features that we could without compromising safe work and product quality commitments. It was a good project finish, within the approved scope of work, and a gentle reminder to me of why I love teamwork. Simply, some of my very best experiences working in the forest take place when I allow space for others to contribute, rather than be intimidated by their ideas and strengths

The team dinner that evening was nice…

More themes remain for me to revisit, and many more new ideas await my discovery as I explore the exciting world of Reclaimit’sforest remediation and reclamation services, and travel across the provinces of Canada and around the world in project-related adventures. Have a question about my blog articles, reclamation services, or have a forestry-related question? Click here to drop me an email!

 

Did you like this article? You may also like Forest Land Reconnaissance – For Caribou Habitat Restoration

 

Forest Land Reconnaissance – For Caribou Habitat Restoration

Time for a break! Despite the glare of the sun in my eyes on this mild 150 C winter afternoon, this is one forester that is equally savouring the warm sun as much as his favourite Cliff Bar©. A short respite with the sun’s warmth and a snack is a welcome friend after facing the cold 250 C (plus windchill) a few days earlier. It is March 2, 2021, the end of a stretch of bitterly cold weather, and the wrapping up of field reconnaissance for another linear feature (I.e., legacy seismic line) reclamation project.

This forest reclamation project is meant to remedy a persistent line-of-sight condition that exists on many legacy resource exploration lines within the range of the Boreal Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou). Why is that a problem? Well, the open exploration lines, frequently defined by long stretches of unimpeded lines-of-sight that remain open, sometimes for several decades after their development, act as travel corridors for the caribou and its primary predators, the wolf (Canis lupus) and black bear (Ursus americanus). Consequently, the caribou population has seen a significant decline because of predation (among other reasons)

The solution in this case? Reclamation of legacy seismic line sites, once occupied by native forest, to an equally matching forest ecosystem that restores the natural and contiguous nature of the boreal forest. Viewed as an important step forward in the recovery of the woodland caribou, it is meant to rectify the competitive advantage enjoyed by the predators within their range by levelling the playing field. In this example, the area just to the northeast of Wandering River is targeted to restore approximately 30 km2 of forest

Although another crew working in the area did see a caribou prior to our arrival we did not. However, we did identify a single set of fresh tracks in the snow. So, what is the Reclaimit Ltd. end game? How do we measure success in this project? Simply stated but not easily achieved, by providing the right types of habitat renovations and using a sustainable suite of solutions that will promote the potential of an accelerated ecological restoration. Doing this effectively will establish the potential for a greater number of woodland caribou to call this area home in the winters to come

An update will come after the Summer 2021 project implementation is complete…

More themes remain for me to revisit, and many more new ideas await my discovery as I explore the exciting world of Reclaimit’sforest remediation and reclamation services, and travel across the provinces of Canada and around the world in project-related adventures. Have a question about my blog articles, reclamation services, or have a forestry-related question? Click here to drop me an email!

 

Did you like this article? You may also like Be Creative and Get Problems Solved

Be creative, and get problems solved

Thanks to children I witnessed playing near the community of Vaudreuil, Haiti when I was there in 2016, I was reminded that being creative when presented with a problem is of great value. For the children I was observing, their problem was the pursuit of amusement: seeking a toboggan experience in an environment lacking both sled and snow. So how did they solve it? They simply found a large piece of bark and a soil-exposed slope (in various stages of water saturation) and start sledding.  Pwoblèm rezoud!!

In western Canada, the business of boreal forest reclamation in a remote setting offers innumerable opportunities for reclamation professionals to be creative. So, three weeks after returning from Haiti, I opted to establish a snow cache using a shovel and fresh snow to provide temporary shelter for our dormant seedlings. That’s right, use the snow to keep the seedlings warm!! The snow cache application in the 2016 Caribou Reclamation Program for MEG Energy Inc. allowed us to use snow’s insulating properties and effectively protect our seedlings from some seriously cold nights (-38o C)!  And yes, when properly applied, this application works quite nicely. Another reliable tool used by Reclaimit to successfully achieve forestland reclamation in a remote forest setting 😊

More themes remain for me to revisit, and many more new ideas await my discovery as I explore the exciting world of Reclaimit’sforest remediation and reclamation services, and travel across the provinces of Canada and around the world in project-related adventures. Have a question about my blog articles, reclamation services, or have a forestry-related question? Click here to drop me an email!

 

Did you like this article? You may also like Local Solution: Global Reach

Local Solution: Global Reach

The other day I was conducting some online research and I came across a photograph that I recognized; it was me! So, I downloaded the document and did a little search on my end to see if I was correct, and this is what I found. A picture taken on a project back in 2009. This photograph, likely taken by my friend and respected professional, Rob Gray, was of work undertaken to re-establish native plants within a small riparian area impacted by the installation of a natural gas pipeline the previous winter.

After a quick search of the source, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) https://www.wbcsd.org/Overview/About-us , it turns out that the WBSCD has a broad reach.  The WBCSD is a global, CEO-led organization of over 200 leading businesses working together to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world. And this project proponent, Shell Energy, is a member.

So, did the environmental mitigation work? Yes, this site was a part of a larger project led by the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) https://www.unbc.ca/

And the methodology? Bioengineering. A natural environmental solution that is simple, proven, and immediately applicable. The training method is provided by the respected environmental professional, David Polster https://ca.linkedin.com/in/david-polster-417a4016.

Now, if you would like to have a look at the article for yourself and confirm my photograph assertion, reference the case study (https://www.naturalinfrastructureforbusiness.org/portfolio-item/natural-reclamation-and-erosion-control-for-onshore-pipelines/) at the website called Natural Infrastructure for Business (https://www.naturalinfrastructureforbusiness.org/). You might even see the Reclaimit name referenced within it!

Read the WBSCD Case Study

So, the summer 2021 plan: go back for another look!

More themes remain for me to revisit, and many more new ideas await my discovery as I explore the exciting world of Reclaimit’sforest remediation and reclamation services, and travel across the provinces of Canada and around the world in project-related adventures. Have a question about my blog articles, reclamation services, or have a forestry-related question? Click here to drop me an email!

 

Did you like this article? You may also like An Infection Called ‘Good News’. I Think it is Time. . .

An Infection called ‘Good News’. I think it is time…

I think that good news is contagious. So, how about we collaborate and share some good news by being intentional and strategic? Well, in 2020 I decided to give it a shot and found myself partnered within a group of 5 other private citizens wanting to voice solutions, instead of problems. Together, we strategized and soon met with Alberta’s Environment Minister. And, after being heard, we got some good news!!

Geothermal Energy is nothing new, right? Right. But in our part of the world, we needed help to see it gain some traction. So, our team highlighted the geothermal energy topic by bringing some exposure to the existing and reputable players and encouraging much-needed regulatory support in its development. And the result?!? Alberta’s Bill 36, legislation to remove “red tape’ and create a basis for repurposing infrastructure and skillsets to put people back to work and harvest geothermal energy. Good news!

CLICK TO VIEW BILL 36

So, be encouraged to take your conversation beyond the coffee shop. Bring forth the ideas that will help your society, family, and environmental stewardship. There is no better time than now to gain an attentive listener! It is about time for a new contagion: Good News! Let it reign in 2021!!

More themes remain for me to revisit, and many more new ideas await my discovery as I explore the exciting world of Reclaimit’sforest remediation and reclamation services, and travel across the provinces of Canada and around the world in project-related adventures. Have a question about my blog articles, reclamation services, or have a forestry-related question? Click here to drop me an email!

 

Did you like this article? You may also like No Harm Occurs in Forestland Environmental Reclamation, Right? Wrong?

 

No Harm Occurs in Forestland Environmental Reclamation, Right? Wrong?

The end goal in proper environmental reclamation in the forest is to undo damage to the ecosystem and replace it with something good. And I can do this without creating environmental harm, right? Wrong.

This month an obvious, yet often overlooked question was posed to me by a 10-year-old girl during an online presentation to children ranging from grades 4 to 6. While listening to my stories related to working in the forest the child asked, “when you are working, does your job ever hurt small birds?”  Now, as a dad, I am used to hearing such questions and have never felt uncomfortable in my response, “sometimes to do good, you create a little bit of harm”. Now, do I like that reality? No. Is it the truth? Yes.

So here is what I said to the child, “When I work in the forest, I try to make sure that I am not hurting small animals so this is what I do.

    • First, I make sure that I know the land and the types of animals that live there, the ones that live there for a short time and the ones that live there all year. To do that I need to collect information about the site and start talking with people that know a lot more than me about the site and its animals.
    • After talking to them I start to develop a plan to fix the site in a way that does not hurt the animals, get permission from the owners to do the work, and make sure I follow the law.

Now, to answer your question directly, this past season we changed our project start date by three weeks because of small birds. Why? Well, we needed to cut down some small trees that, at that time of year, sometimes have small bird nests on the branches. So, what we did is we waited until the bird eggs hatched and the baby ones flew away. After they left, we went in and did our work. Now, is it possible that we missed a nest or a bird? Yes. Why? Because the forest is huge, birds hide their nests in the branches, and it is impossible to be perfect. But we did follow the government rules and did our own check of the trees before we cut them down. What that means is this, when we were trying to fix the land, we do our absolute best not to hurt birds. Unfortunately, we are not always perfect, but we sure try.”

Although experienced in the art of talking to small children, it was a hard question to answer, because deep down I know that even if I do not intentionally create harm in my actions, it does not mean it has not happened. In the end, I am trying to do the right thing, and sometimes I unknowingly create harm. As a professional, a dad, a neighbour and a respecter of the land, it was a reminder for me to remain sober about the reality that sometimes in the act of doing good, I can create harm. To reduce the potential and consequences of harmful outcomes associated with my activities, I shall remain duly diligent ….

Figure 1. Nighthawk nesting, Axe Lake, Saskatchewan, 2014

More themes remain for me to revisit, and many more new ideas await my discovery as I explore the exciting world of Reclaimit’sforest remediation and reclamation services, and travel across the provinces of Canada and around the world in project-related adventures. Have a question about my blog articles, reclamation services, or have a forestry-related question? Click here to drop me an email!

 

Did you like this article? You may also like How you do it … Matters

How you do it… matters!

Garbage duty on the final field day of the Caribou Reclamation 2020 seismic line reforestation project in Alberta, Canada, completed in support of woodland caribou habitat restoration. This day I walked 23 km through forestland dominated by treed bogs and fens, carrying out the box waste so the real workers could get the job done. And they did! Covering 38 km of line over the project duration, they modelled how to do environmental reclamation services right, the first time, with another accident and incident-free job.

Thank you to MEG Energy Inc., Windfirm Resources Inc., Strongfield Environmental Solutions Inc., Woodmere Nurseries and of course, Phoenix Heli-flight.

And yes, 2 days later and I am still sore. 😁

More themes remain for me to revisit, and many more new ideas await my discovery as I explore the exciting world of Reclaimit’sforest remediation and reclamation services, and travel across the provinces of Canada and around the world in project-related adventures. Have a question about my blog articles, reclamation services, or have a forestry-related question? Click here to drop me an email!

 

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