Presented by: Matthew Pyper, Jason Barrie, Jesse Tigner

Restoration of linear features is gaining significant momentum in the context of caribou conservation, and there is significant focus on this topic within the academic literature. However, the cost of operational linear restoration is incredibly high (often exceeding $10-$12,000/km) and the pace of implementation is slow. To further understand the long-term role of restoration in the caribou conservation toolbox, it’s important for operational trials to focus on new innovations in treatment delivery.

With funding from Emissions Reduction Alberta, Cenovus Energy Ltd. recently undertook an operational field trial to test a wide range of new restoration equipment. The trial consists of low-cost agricultural implements (harrows, box blade, and disc); a custom designed tow-behind drum; and a Bracke three row mounder attached to a custom designed carrier. Within lowland sites, three different types of mounds were also tested, including testing a bucket custom designed for restoration.

Treatments were delivered in the fall of 2021 and the initial focus of the trial was on documenting site conditions before and immediately after treatment. Data was also collected on the operational efficiency and speed of treatment delivery.

Initial results indicate that tow behind implements, specifically the agricultural disc and the box blade, show surprising promise with respect to treatment speed and quality of microsites created. Within lowland sites, upright mounding and use of the custom designed bucket also show promise based on data collected to date. Future monitoring will focus on tree and vegetation response to the treatments and will track sites for up to three years post-treatment to assess ecological outcomes.