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A Quick Fix & the Surprise

Proper reclamation of the boreal forest is rarely a quick fix. In fact, the best outcomes take time if they are ecologically aligned, industry-leading, regulatory approved, and socially acceptable. That’s a tall order to deliver. It’s one that demands program-supporting projects that are well thought out, properly executed, and based upon a clear understanding of the dependencies an effective remedy recommendation will require. And that’s why Reclaimit consultants rarely pull the quick fix tool from their suite of solutions to restore a disturbed forestland site. The quick-fix solution is high risk. Yes, high risk.

Notice the tall spruce tree in the top right of the photo as a reference point in both before and after photos.

How is a quick-fix solution high risk?

Well, it’s the quick fix that hides an assortment of shortcuts. That beeline to the finish, when truly understood, has baggage that includes a variety of long-term and debt-laden commitments. Like the outcomes arising from a quick-fix solution applied by another service team on a Reclaimit project site in 2015. Within days of Reclaimit completing a well-planned and executed reforestation solution, the other service company then implemented an intentional seeding of the reclaimed site using a seemingly less expensive native grass seed mixture to save on costs. Sounds great, right? After all, the seed and its application were cheap to source and apply, and savings are always good.

Notice the tall spruce tree in the top right of the photo as a reference point in both before and after photos.

As seen in July 2021, the grasses are well established, making the site completely green. And they complement Reclaimit’s suite of ecologically aligned native plants; that Boreal forest-friendly mixture of Picea glauca (white spruce), Populus balsamifera (balsam poplar), Betula papyrifera (white birch), Alnus viridis (green alder) and Salix spp. So, what’s the issue?

Well, Reclaimit’s original solution would have met the reclamation criteria for plant diversity, coverage, and health by the end of 2017. A mere 2 years after treatment. Meeting that benchmark would have meant that the liability would have been considered addressed, eligible for return to the regulator, and fully ending the proponent’s financial and environmental responsibilities at the location. The application by another service provider never should have occurred on this lot, however, due to a lack of internal communication in the company that contracted Reclaimit, one of the stakeholders in the company made a judgement call that they thought would save on costs.

SURPRISE! The Quick-fix solution actually costs more.

As luck would have it, during the application of the native grass seed mixture, a few tiny weed seeds that found their way into that seed lot also became established. And now they need to be controlled annually until eliminated for the location to be considered eligible for a liability release.

Although the applied seed was likely certified, this applies only to genetic purity and has nothing to do with the presence or absence of weed seed in an applied mix. “Canada No. 1” or “certified seed”. – only guarantees the variety (genetic) purity, – but NOT that the seed is weed-free!!!. REFERENCE: https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/aep-weed-awareness.pdf (SLIDE #31)

So, a return in 2022 to respray the site is on the books, and if successful will make the site release-ready in 2023, a full 8 years after the quick fix. And if not, another spray project will be on the books.

Thinking beyond the quick fix, it’s how Reclaimit consultants practice forestland reclamation and successfully deliver ecologically compatible and financially justifiable solutions.  Have a question about my blog articles, reclamation services, or any forestry-related questions? Click here to drop me an email!

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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…

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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Willow in the Wet. Always??

Willow fascines for habitat restoration in a semi-arid and sub-humid boreal forest ecosystem. Does it work?

Over my many years working in the forestlands of Canada I learned that willow (Salix spp.) is a shrubby plant that is associated with wetlands. In the context of my management paradigms, this is a correct and reliable assertion, often supported by wet feet before the end of the day.

Working in northwestern Saskatchewan, in a region dominated by undulating topography, sandy soil, and annual rainfall in the order of 400 to 500 millimeters, my understanding of this important plant presence and dominance was challenged. What I saw was what appeared to be an omnipresent and prolific performing willow, growing in upper and crest of slope areas, in sub-xeric soil moisture conditions and on drastically disturbed sites after industrial development.

Willow bushes growing at the edge

Figure 1. Willow bushes growing at the edge of a drastically disturbed site at the crest of a slope, semi-arid and sub-humid climate

Perhaps, many environmental mitigation solutions are before our eyes? Could they become visible when we are prepared to risk that the understood may be misunderstood? That was the case for me. Upon further investigation and reflection, I realized that properly applied, I could prescribe willow fascines to support soil stability in eroding areas, be it erosion from water or wind. Yes, effectively apply the fascine strategy in a sub-xeric ecosystem, and expect them to live. So, I did just that, and it worked (Figure 2).

And this is why I still go to the field. So much to learn, so little time to learn it!!

 Established willow fascine application

Figure 2. Established willow fascine application in a pure sand microsite, semi-arid, and sub-humid climate.

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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