Northern Alberta is home to a rich, biodiverse landscape but, striking a balance between vital resource development and preserving the plant and wildlife habitat in the region can be a challenge.
Clayton Dubyk, a land and environmental expert working in Shell Canada’s oil sands business, is part of a unique pilot project that is meeting that challenge with an innovative approach to re-vegetation.
“Historical oil and gas exploration practices have created long cutlines in the boreal forest which are clear of trees and which have not re-grown on their own over the years,” says Dubyk explaining that open cutlines give predators a clear line of sight to prey on caribou. “Woodland caribou are a species-at-risk in Canada with declining populations and there is a province-wide and industry-wide focus to reverse this trend.”
Traditional tree planting might seem like an obvious solution to reforest cutlines but the terrain is complex. The area is largely made up of wetlands which are far too saturated during warm months for a conventional approach.
Through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), Shell Canada learned of a novel approach developed by Nexen for restoring and re-vegetating areas which are normally difficult to access, and which also lie in prime caribou habitat in northern Alberta.