Originally published in the Edmonton Journal
A northern Alberta company has planted more than 80,000 trees along old seismic lines as part of a long-term plan to protect threatened woodland caribou.
The 10-metre-wide cutlines built for oil and gas exploration allow wolves and other predators to catch caribou more easily than if they have to push through forest, said Jason Supernault, assistant manager of Eric Auger & Sons Contracting Ltd.
Studies have determined that’s one factor in the decline of caribou herds that disappeared in Banff National Park and are under pressure elsewhere.
For two months last winter crews toiled through rain, snow and cold on a restoration pilot project for the A La Peche caribou range near the Berland River, about 80 km south of Grande Cache, Supernault said.
“As an Aboriginal person, I see the advantage of it. You’re not just looking at the caribou, you’re looking at all species affected by those corridors — it gives them a chance to repopulate.”
The Wabasca company spent a year preparing for the job, including consulting local Indigenous hunters and trappers to determine how best to balance their interest in the land, he said.
His team put in white spruce, black spruce and tamarack seedlings and seeds along 59 kilometres of cutlines, using dirt ripped up by equipment so it was loose enough to plant.
They also felled trees to impede predators and hunters driving quads along these lines and another 11 kilometres where regeneration was already happening.