On the Ground Learning Supports Best Practices for Industry
Imagine a classroom where the walls are towering pine trees, the only roof is Alberta’s brilliant blue sky and there’s not a textbook in sight.
Students shovel dirt into a honeycomb-like structure on the ground that is used by industry to minimize the impact of temporary roads on ecosystems, including wetlands. Representatives of those industries and government are on hand to talk to students about other methods that are being developing to minimize the impact of industrial development on the environment.
The Evergreen Learning and Innovation Centre currently covers 8.9 hectares in the boreal forest and is made up of more than 40 sites where industry partners have worked with the Government of Alberta to build demonstration projects to test best management practices related to pipelines, water crossings, roads and seismic lines.
The idea is to identify and recognize environmental leadership so that it will inspire others.
Located in northwestern Alberta, the centre enhances communication and collaboration between industry, public and government. It enables industry to develop innovative solutions to environmental challenges by providing a location for developing, testing, researching, and showcasing best practices.
About two years ago it attracted the attention of DUC’s National Boreal Program. At the time, the program was researching potential impacts of temporary access mats on wetlands and had already developed an operational wetland crossing best management practices guide and a wetland identification field guide. A meeting between the centre and DUC made it clear that there was significant room for collaboration.
The next step was for a DUC remote sensing specialist to use imagery acquired from aircraft to map wetlands in and around the centre. For Michael Merchant to complete this, he visited the centre to take GPS locations of wetland types and their associated characteristics. This ground-truthing process allowed him to identify wetlands within the aerial imagery using the known ground data. Ultimately he produced a digital wetland inventory for the centre. This inventory was needed for DUC to work with the centre and industry in identifying potential wetland demonstration projects.
DUC’s inventory of wetlands indicates that approximately 90 per cent of the centre is wetland habitat. This makes it an excellent area for on-the-ground discussions with industry and government about the wetlands and the importance of conserving them through best practices. Talks are continuing on how DUC can work with the centre, industry and the Government of Alberta to meet mutual environmental, social and economic goals.