Major caribou habitat initiative underway in northeastern Alberta
June 2016 - We’ve taken our efforts to protect endangered caribou in northern Alberta to a new level with the launch of the Cenovus Caribou Habitat Restoration Project. This 10-year, $32 million voluntary initiative builds on the success of our Linear Deactivation (LiDea) pilot project which tested reforestation techniques in the swampy conditions of northeastern Alberta where our oil sands operations are located.
Planting trees to support caribou (2:13) Transcript
When this new project is finished in 2026, we expect to have completed restoration work within an area of about 3,900 square kilometres of fragmented boreal forest. That’s about five times the area of the city of Calgary, and it’s the largest single area of caribou habitat restoration undertaken by a company anywhere in the world.
Our plans go above and beyond current regulatory requirements, and we believe they will contribute significantly to the provincial government’s developing action and range plans for caribou herds in Alberta.
Over the past 40 years, many oil and gas companies cut corridors in the forest for seismic work, access roads and other exploration activities. Exploration techniques have since improved so there’s less disturbance of the forest, but some older corridors have been slow to return to forest cover. These long open stretches within the boreal forest attract deer and moose as well as their predators – primarily wolves – to existing caribou habitat. As a result, more caribou are being preyed upon.
Our environmental specialists developed the Cenovus Caribou Habitat Restoration Project to restore these older disturbed areas to their natural state. We use a unique combination of proven reforestation techniques – mounding the ground, planting trees, adding woody debris and leaning tree stems into the pathways – to regenerate the forest and give young trees a chance to grow more quickly.
Much of the restoration work we’ve completed to date has been done by local First Nations contracting companies, and we expect to continue working with Aboriginal businesses throughout this new 10-year project. We’ll 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).