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Reforestation

Reforestation has been the law in Alberta since 1966. Under legislation, a forestry company must "treat" a harvested area within two years of logging. "Treatment" means ensuring either natural regrowth or artificial reforestation. With natural regrowth, or regeneration, a timber company ensures that conditions are right for trees to grow back naturally. This means making sure that existing trees produce adequate viable seeds; or in the case of aspen, that conditions are favourable for sapling regeneration from roots. It also means making sure that the seeds and very young trees have the proper conditions to survive and grow. Currently, about 20 percent of the total harvested area in the province is regenerated naturally.

Artificial reforestation is accomplished by replanting seedlings, or by direct seeding. The type of reforestation treatment and activity is determined by the species harvested as well as numerous site conditions. Replanting efforts have improved considerably in recent years, both in the methods used and the quality of the seedling stock. Today, replanting accounts for about 60 percent of the area harvested annually. Direct seeding typically accounts for 20 percent of the total area harvested. The total area treated using these techniques continues to increase.

Following replanting, direct seeding or natural regeneration, the area must be surveyed according to provincial standards. the surveys are done at specific times to check for the types of species that are growing, tree density, stocking and tree health, or vigour. The establishment survey is completed four to eight years after harvest for coniferous and mixedwood sites, and three to five years for deciduous sites.

A second survey, the performance survey, is completed eight to 14 years following harvest, on coniferous and mixedwood sites. This survey indicates how well the new trees are growing and identifies areas where the growth of trees is being slowed by competing vegetation. Trees must reach specified heights and no longer face competition from other vegetation to be considered "Free to Grow". When a performance survey reveals areas where there are too few trees or where trees fail to meet height requirements, the site must be retreated. This treatment could mean planting seedlings or clearing away competing vegetation, such as grasses, shrubs or trees. The reforestation success rate in Alberta is generally above 92 percent for coniferous, deciduous and mixedwood areas.

Replanted Lodgepole Forest near Luscar

Replanted Lodgepole Forest near Luscar