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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…

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