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2017 tree planting takes root in May

Jun 15, 2017

Reclamation began to take root in May as nearly 400,000 trees and shrubs were planted on the site of our former East Mine.

Over the course of several days, a team of about 30 tree planters from Little Smokey Forestry Services covered roughly 68 hectares of upland surrounding the Sandhill Fen and Kingfisher reclamation areas in the northeast section of the former pit.  

Syncrude revegetation planner Eric Girard says oil sands reclamation offers a different experience from traditional tree planting. “At Syncrude, they get to see the work that goes into creating landforms where a big hole in the ground once existed,” he says. “Syncrude’s planting schemes are also very different as we use a broader range of plant species that are native to the Wood Buffalo region—as many as seven kinds of trees and 15 species of shrubs.  We also strive to place the plants in a way that looks natural, as opposed to straight rows.”

Indeed, Little Smokey Forestry Services owner Brett Henkel says, “On a forestry cutblock, we tend to see a lot of tree remnants, fallen timber and stumps and we only plant merchantable timber such as pine and spruce. There are no shrubs, no deciduous trees and the planting density is very uniform.”

"At Syncrude," says Brett, “the landform has been totally recreated and planting density is designed to be more natural looking as we are trying to emulate what existed prior to mining.  We are planting a huge variety of species, including trees such as white spruce, jack pine, aspen, poplar, willow, white birch, and shrubs like blueberry, buffaloberry, bearberry, green alder, honeysuckle, and willow.”

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Brett adds, “Our people really enjoy working here as we see Syncrude’s commitment to restoring the land.  It’s very impressive to learn about all the research they do to figure out the best ways to reclaim the land, and to collect and germinate seeds.  Our team was involved in planting the Sandhill Fen several years ago and it is so impressive to see this area today. The trees are doing really well; I think they are going to explode in the next year or two, which will create a real visual impression on people who once knew this area only as a mine site.”

In total, about 200 hectares of land at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake and Aurora sites are expected to be planted this year. Our long-term reclamation vision is to create a landscape that supports a healthy diversity of plants and animals, and sustains a range of land uses. To assist in achieving that goal, we've planted more than 8 million trees and shrubs since operations began in 1978.