August 14, 2019 12:02 pm 1 Comment
Long time no see readers,
Things have been bustling since the last time I wrote a blog. It is hard to believe that my time at Al-Pac is beginning to wrap up and summer is coming to an end. What little summer we had here in Alberta with the constant rain.
First things first, remember how I planted hundreds of poplar trees a couple of months ago? Well, it’s time to do the same thing, but different! The other three summer students and I were assigned to plant 8000 spruce trees in the poplar farm during a regular Al-Pac work week (4 days). If my math is correct, that’s 2000 trees per person and 500 trees per day. Boy, let me tell you that was a struggle to reach. We planted the agricultural field and underplanted beneath ten rows of mature poplar. Tree planting is hot and sweaty work! Every Christmas, my great uncle says I’m going to be a tree planter once I am done school and it looks like he might be right (at least partially).
As you may know, there was a rather large and dangerous fire that occurred in Alberta and Al-Pac’s FMA. The fire was 273,000 hectares large and caused the evacuation of Wabasca -Desmarais. That’s approximately the size of Hong Kong, Luxembourg, or Samoa! Needless to say, a fire this size has had a sizeable impact on the forest operations in the area. As a small part of this work, I joined the planning students for a day to search for a Permanent Sample Plot and check if it had been burnt. After a boot full of water from slipping on a beaver dam (unfortunately, there is no video footage), the PSP was there intact and painted bright blue on the edges.
I joined the planning students in timber cruising the burnt down forests for possible salvage operations. After a fire, forest companies are allowed, in coordination with the provincial government, to harvest salvageable wood. Timber cruising is not as it sounds. It is not driving lumber around, but rather is the science of estimating the volume of wood in a stand and projecting this information to the forest level. In my studies, we practiced timber cruising in the winter. Needless to say, the bugs were much more of a nuisance this time around, but I did appreciate the lack of snow in my boots. My favorite part of going into the burned region was seeing the beauty of burnt down stands and how fast the forest is beginning to regenerate (at least the understory).
I was lucky enough to volunteer for the Peerless Trout First Nation Treaty Days with other Al-Pac team members and summer students. Treaty Days are a celebration and reaffirmation of Aboriginal rights. In the case of Peerless Trout First Nation, this means several days of celebration with dancing, barbecues, traditional games, and activities. Peerless Trout First Nation is located on the northwest side of the FMA and is quite a trek from the mill. Nobody in forestry tells you how much driving there will be when you sign up. Many Al-Pac team members volunteered and hosted a free barbeque for everybody at the celebration. It was a fun time grilling up and passing out burgers and hot dogs to anybody who wanted one.
After a month of will I-won’t I help out with the tree plant, I was finally headed up to Chipewyan Lake and learned more about silviculture. Al-Pac’s timber harvest comes from deciduous trees like poplar and aspen. These species naturally regenerate on the landscape so there is no need to plant them to reforest. Al-Pac does conduct a summer tree plant with spruce primarily planted on reclaimed roads and in various cutblocks. As part of my job, I got to live in a tree planter camp which involves sleeping in a tent, eating at a camp kitchen, and having a great time with the tree planters. Not to mention the bears being curious about the tents and their occupants. Incredibly, part of my job is being paid to stay in a remote camp and sleep in the forest. A moss bed is almost better than a sleeping bag. Chipewyan Lake is the farthest north I have ever driven in Canada and probably one of the highlights of my summer. Learning how to quality check trees is neat. However, I know if I were to plant as fast as a tree planter, my trees would be in rough shape. Although camping up north was a highlight…I did miss showers. You don’t know how much dirt you get on your body after doing fieldwork until you can`t take a shower at the end of the day. My appreciation of showers skyrocketed during my brief stay as did my paranoia about dirty amoeba infested contact lenses. My stay was short, fun, and dirty!
Thank you for reading about my most recent adventures! Stay tuned for my remaining blog posts about my time with Al-Pac and my next steps in my professional life!