We have proactively supported caribou conservation activities on our landbase since 1991. We work with the Alberta government, Aboriginal peoples, environmental organizations, the forestry and energy industry and other interested and stakeholders to address caribou issues.
Our initiatives in the 1990s focused on better understanding caribou habitat use, predator-prey interactions and the effects of industrial activities. In the 2000s, our efforts shifted to advancing Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) and participating in government-led caribou range planning. ILM is the coordination of activities on the forest landbase with other land users to reduce the footprint of industrial activity within the caribou range. We also collaborate with TransCanada Pipelines Limited, Alberta Environment & Parks and Alberta Agriculture & Forestry to support caribou habitat restoration.
We supported the restoration of approximately 268 kilometres of legacy seismic lines in caribou habitat in the Dillon River Wildland Park. We also lobbied to establish 437,000 hectares of protected areas previously within our Forest Management Agreement (FMA) area. We continue to participate in caribou habitat restoration by planning, performing research, and monitoring various partners, including the Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration.
Our 2015 Forest Management Plan includes a strategy that defers harvest from most caribou ranges on the forest management agreement area for up to 20 years. In collaboration with other forestry companies and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (Northern Alberta Chapter), we developed the strategy. The deferral intends to allow time for government-led caribou range planning to develop strategies to recover caribou and their habitat. We will also participate in the provincial range planning processes through our membership with the sub-regional task force and adapt our forest management plan accordingly.
Forest Songbird Program
We have supported a forest songbird research program for over 25 years better to understand upland forest birds’ responses to forestry. The longest study is based at Calling Lake and is currently led by Dr. Erin Bayne at the University of Alberta.
Since 1993, this study allows us to:
- Monitor the songbird community each year and observe changes
- Learn how long it takes for old-forest-associated species to return to an area after harvest operations
- Understand which species may need additional management activities to return
New harvest areas can look very different from the harvest areas studied at Calling Lake. To expand our research scope, we also examine other sites and observe how different practices affect the forest songbird habitat.
For example, understory protection harvest is a newer technique used in mixedwood forests, beginning approximately 15 years ago. In this technique, most of the taller aspen trees are harvested, but much of the white spruce understory is left standing.
Research by Dr. Bayne’s team shows that these understory protection harvest areas support several old-forest associated birds soon after harvest. The team also discovered that the overall forest songbird community is very similar to an unharvested forest only 12 years after harvest.