John Peters, Silvacom
The Algar Caribou Habitat Restoration Program was initiated in 2011 by six oil sands companies (Nexen is the lead organization) to improve undisturbed caribou habitat by restoring historic linear footprint off lease and within the East Side Athabasca River caribou range in northeast Alberta. This was the first large-scale linear restoration program implemented in Alberta. As part of the action plan, approximately 340 km of legacy seismic lines, over a 56,000 ha area, were treated by winter planting and/or natural regeneration protection over the course of four years. Because the region is largely covered by wetlands, winter planting techniques were used to gain access to the area using winter roads. This project was the first to operationalize winter planting on a large scale.
As part of an adaptive management approach, monitoring plots were established on pre-restoration treatment lines in an effort to capture pre and post-restoration conditions and study the change in conditions as a result of treatments. To-date five years of monitoring data have been collected in the Algar area, spanning a number of treatment types including winter mounded and planted sites, natural regeneration protection, and no treatment. Thus far, both the linear restoration and the monitoring program has been funded by oil sands industry members.