We're significantly expanding our Caribou Habitat Restoration Project
May 2021 – We have significantly expanded the scope of our Caribou Habitat Restoration Project, the largest project of its kind in the world. Woodland caribou are listed as threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and by closing and reforesting long open stretches created by our operations, we aim to reduce wolf predation on caribou.
Our Caribou Habitat Restoration Project is helping to reduce fragmentation in the Cold Lake caribou herd’s habitat, where our Foster Creek and Christina Lake oil sands projects are located.
With our updated commitment, we will be treating up to 4,000 kilometres of linear disturbance by 2030, including planting up to 5 million trees. This is an increase from our original target of treating up to 3,500 kilometers and planting up to 4 million trees by 2026 and utilizes the restoration ratio metric, comparing the amount of habitat treated for restoration to the amount of habitat disturbed for operations. Since 2013, we’ve already cumulatively treated more than 800 kilometres and planted about 1 million trees as part of the Caribou Habitat Restoration Project.
This program, announced in 2016 as a voluntary environmental initiative, uses proven reforestation techniques to restore old seismic lines, access roads and other linear disturbances. These include techniques such as mounding the ground, planting trees on the mounds, adding woody debris and leaning tree stems into the pathways to help cover historical corridors cut into the forest for seismic work, access roads and other activities.
We also recognize and embrace the need for continual improvement and have made some noteworthy changes in recent years including testing amphibious vehicles and equipment as part of our land restoration plans. We recently collaborated with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) to measure how carbon exchange is influenced by various restoration techniques. The findings of this research have been published in Wetlands Ecology and Management and will be used to help oil sands companies with active restoration programs improve their techniques.
Site preparation implements specialized machines to help with tree planting, having the potential to significantly improve treatment speed, limit overall surface disturbance and allow for full treatment of abandoned pipeline right of ways. We will be testing implements over the next couple of years and will continue to measure and monitor the results of our restoration work and share what we learn with others through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and the Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration (RICC).
Through these organizations, we work collaboratively across company tenures and lease boundaries to coordinate habitat restoration in the Cold Lake and East Side Athabasca River caribou herds and conduct research on caribou ecology and how wildlife responds to habitat treatments. We also work on a coordinated caribou approach with our peers at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).