Ecological benchmarks are large, intact protected areas that are free of industrial development and represent the range of forest and habitat types present in an area. Benchmark areas in the Al-Pac FMA area act as an indicator of what an undeveloped, natural forest would look like allowing enabling us to better understand how our activities may change the forest. More importantly, ecological benchmarks provide a guide or template of what the surrounding forest should look like after harvesting and reforestation occurs.
Al-Pac's long-term commitments for ecological benchmarks within the FMA area include the Athabasca, Lakeland and Gypsy-Gordon benchmark sites. As a result, Al-Pac is deferring harvesting of over 200,000 ha as a first step to obtaining legislative protection for these areas. The Athabasca and Gypsy-Gordon sites are large (> 90,000 ha) areas with many regionally significant features. These features include intact forest, significant recreational potential, a wide range of successional stages (ages of forest stands) and habitat for Woodland Caribou. There are currently more than 460,000 hectares of protected areas within or adjacent to the company's Forest Management Agreement (FMA) area.