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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…

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!

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

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.