June 27th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 26
Spray Lake reforestation effort plants 2.7 million seedlings
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Herald contributor photo
Pass Herald Reporter
For three straight weeks this June, tree planters have been hard at work, rain or shine, planting over 1 million tree seedlings in the C5 Forest Management Unit (FMU) as part of annual reforestation projects by Spray Lake Sawmills Ltd.

Company-wide, Spray Lake will plant over 2.7 million seedlings throughout their entire FMU.

Errol Kutcher is a woodlands forester with Spray Lake and one of his responsibilities is to plan the reforestation efforts each year.

Back in November 2017, Kutcher began planning the reforestation program for the Highwood within the Forest Management Area (FMA) and Porcupine Hills, Isolation Creek, Station Creek and Indian Graves in the C5 FMU.

Northern Reforestation out of Slave Lake is the contract company that carried out the planting efforts. On this particular reforestation project, there are 13 support staff and 37 tree planters working, who cumulatively planted between 75,000 and 90,000 seedlings a day. In total, there were about 700,000 lodgepole pine trees planted, 200,000 Engelmann spruce and 100,000 white spruce.

The provincial Timber Management Regulation requires disposition holders to reforest within two years after the end of the year of their cut.

Each year, Spray Lake collects cones from the trees naturally found in a harvest block, ensuring that they get specimen from that exact "seed zone" particular to that elevation and topography.

The cones are then sent for cold storage at the Alberta Tree Improvement and Seed Centre (ATISC) in Smoky Lake, the main station for forest genetics, tree improvement and reforestation seed programs in Alberta.

Each fall, Kutcher determines how many of each species they will need to replant that year and places an order with the ATISC.

The seedling is then sent to Coast to Coast Reforestation Inc., a tree farm that Spray Lake has partnered with in Medicine Hat, where it will be nurtured and grown from December to May.
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Reforestation projects typically start in June, when precipitation is high and the soil is thawed. The seedlings are transported from the greenhouse to the reforestation sites via quads or city trucks or, if the road has already been reclaimed, by air.

Reforestation standards in accordance with the Regeneration Standards of Alberta (RSA) need to be met to ensure that enough seedlings have taken to their new environment.

Four to eight years after harvest, Spray Lake is obligated to produce and present an Establishment Survey to show that the trees planted are actually growing. Eighty percent of the surveyed plots within a block must be stocked.

Additionally, 11 to 14 years after harvest, Spray Lake must produce a Performance Survey, which is a physical measurement of how well those trees are growing, measured in the amount of wood produced in cubic metres per hectare.

Kutcher says that reforestation projects are all about sustainability.
"This is the industry giving back. We don't just harvest trees. There's a whole slew of things that goes into it other than us cutting down trees and shipping them to the mills," he says.

Wade Aebli, C5 Woodlands Operations Supervisor at Spray Lake, adds that it goes with just responsible forest management, essentially recreating natural disturbance patterns like fire, blowdown or insects that traditionally happened on a landscape. The result is what he calls a "mosaic of age classes" where a landscape has old growth, mature and immature growth, and new disturbance.
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Archeological exploration

As Spray Lake begins reclamation on one harvest block, they prepare another for new logging activities.

Before any logging or road-building activities begin in a new Spray Lake harvest zone, the Historical Resources Act requires that an impact assessment examining the area for signs of historical activity is performed.

A two-person archeological team with Golder Associates just wrapped a five-day investigation in the Vicary Creek, Racehorse Creek, Timber Creek and Westrup Creek in the C5 Forest Management Unit to determine whether there are any sensitive areas prior to harvest.

"We look at Spray Lake's annual plans and we do a screening to determine which areas may need to have an archeological assessment done before they harvest the areas. There are areas deemed high probability archeological evidence," says Vincent Balls, one of the archaeologists on the team. "We visit the target areas and we do walk around, a surface survey and shovel testing to test for buried artifacts."
Light Detection and Ranging data (LiDar) is used to determine which areas have a potential for historic sites.

"Based on our knowledge and background of where sites have been found in the past, we have a fairly good idea of typical land forms that generally people would have used in the past," says Balls.

If an area is deemed as having archeological significance, it is flagged and protected from harvesting and road building.

On this recent survey, one of the artifacts found is a small jade piece suspected of being a woodworking chisel, found on a plateau above the Old Man and Livingstone River confluence.
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June 27th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 26
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