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Re-Greening Projects

The May, 2016 wildfire had a significant and lasting impact on the forests and greenspaces of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB). Wildfires are a natural and essential part of how the boreal forest sustains and regenerates itself.

Some regrowth, reforestation and re-greening will happen naturally over time, while there are other areas in which the RMWB will be working with forestry experts to help the process along.

The Municipality recognizes that forests and greenspaces are incredibly valuable to its residents and to the wildlife and environment in the region.

Efforts will be made to remediate some areas were damaged during the May, 2016 wildfire, including removing many of the trees that were damaged in the wildfire, repairing trails to their pre-fire condition and planting grass seed in the first 30 metres of the firebreak areas.

The Municipality understands the importance of greenspaces and forested areas for recreation, mental wellness and community gathering, and will work to help restore many of these spaces.

Greenspace Rehabilitation

Reforestation

Trees will be planted in select areas throughout the region that were damaged in the May, 2016 wildfire. These areas have been identified by forestry experts. There are also non-profit organizations and private partners working with the Municipality on plans for reforestation in the region.

Trees will be planted in areas selected by forestry experts who will select the right species of tree for the area, based on FireSmart principles which includes planting more leafy green trees and keeping trees spaced at least three metres apart. To learn more about FireSmart visit rmwb.ca/firesmart.

Reforestation efforts are beginning this spring and will continue into 2019.

Primarily, Trembling Aspen, Balsam Poplar, Tamarack and Siberian Larch will be planted along with a smaller percentage of White Spruce and Lodgepole Pine. All tree species are native to the region and forestry experts are working to ensure the right trees are planted in the right places.

Areas where planting is complete will be protected for reclamation. Residents are reminded they must not disturb the areas in order to allow seedlings to take root and grow. Residents should refrain from walking, cycling, using off-highway vehicles or allowing pets to roam in the reclamation areas.

Between May 24, 2017 and June 15, 2017, thousands of seedlings will be planted in Abasand, Saprae Creek, Thickwood and Wood Buffalo in areas where hazardous tree removal work was completed.

In some areas, all rebuild activity must be complete before seedlings or trees can be planted.

The first planting is scheduled for Saprae Creek on May 24, 2017 and is expected to take one week.

Residents looking to take part in reforestation efforts should register online

Trail restoration

During the May, 2016 wildfire, firefighting efforts had a significant impact on many of the trails in the community, damaging or partially destroying some of the community’s trails.

Recognizing the importance of these trails to residents in our community, the Parks department is working to replace all pre-existing trails to a condition equal to what was lost or damaged.

There may be some cases where the exact location of the trail may shift slightly, but all paved trails will be replaced with a paved trail, all gravel trails will be replaced with a gravel trail, etc.

Trail restoration work will begin in spring 2017 with the project extending into 2018 in some areas. Recreational use will be limited while remediation work is taking place and heavy machinery is working in the area.

Hazardous tree removal

Hazardous tree removal includes the selective removal of trees damaged in the wildfire that pose a community safety risk.

Learn more about ongoing hazardous tree removal projects at rmwb.ca/trees.

Safety

Trees that were burned in the wildfire may pose a safety hazard near trails, roadways, park infrastructure and in burned neighbourhoods within the Urban Service Area of Fort McMurray.

Residents are reminded to obey all posted signage indicating a trail is closed. The trail may look safe to use but there are dangers because the integrity of many trees was destroyed by the wildfire.

Many trees in these areas have severe health and structural support issues that place them at risk of falling down. High winds, heavy rain, and other severe weather may increase this risk.

Residents are reminded to stay out of and away from wooded areas damaged in the wildfire for their own safety.

Firebreak rehabilitation

As firefighters worked to protect homes during the wildfire, firebreaks were created throughout the community. These firebreaks established large open areas between private properties and the forested areas.

The first 30 metres of the open areas created in these firebreaks will be rehabilitated to a minimum standard of topsoil and seed. Now that grading work to address pooling and drainage concerns is complete, another round of general grading is being done to address any remaining grading issues across the firebreak areas.

The plan to restore the first 30 metres of the firebreak areas includes the following work in each of the areas:

  • Rough grade
  • Fine grade
  • Top soil
  • Grass seed

Firebreak graphic

These areas will be added to the Municipal mowing and maintenance program.

Trees will not be planted as part of the Municipality’s immediate rehabilitation plan, but there is a possibility of planting trees as part of a longer-term firebreak restoration plan.

New trails will not be part of the immediate rehabilitation plan but will be considered as part of long-term planning.

No decision has been made for rehabilitation of the space that was cleared beyond the first 30 metres within the firebreak areas. Some possible options include allowing natural regrowth to occur over time, planting trees, seeding trees or maintaining an area clear of trees but allowing other growth to occur naturally. Other suggestions from residents are welcome and will be considered.

Wildfire Rebuild  [Learn more]