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Partner Spotlight: Millar Western a Powerful Ally in Conservation

boreal wetlands aerial view

December 21, 2017


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Partner Spotlight: Millar Western a Powerful Ally in Conservation

Foresters seek understanding of wetlands for FMP planning

Progressive forestry companies have been long-standing conservation partners of DUC. One such company, Alberta-based Millar Western Forest Products Ltd., recently sought out DUC boreal program staff to assist with integrating wetlands and waterfowl information into its Detailed Forest Management Plan (DFMP) for northern Alberta.

In Alberta, forestry companies are required to submit long-term, strategic forest management plans to government every ten years. These plans describe objectives, strategies and commitments that will guide sustainable forest management activities, including the development of annual operating plans.

The solution: a wetland inventory

After reviewing information available for Millar Western’s Forest Management Agreement (FMA) area, DUC boreal program staff provided a full description of the wetlands found (in type and amount), an overview of the ecosystem services wetlands provide and a map and a description of the distribution of waterfowl. DUC and Millar Western also included a plan for how they will jointly advance wetland and waterfowl conservation over the DFMP’s time frame. Millar Western’s DFMP, which was approved by the Government of Alberta on October 3, 2017, will be in effect until 2027.

“This is the first opportunity presented to us to have direct input into a Forest Management Plan,” says Chris Smith, DUC’s head of boreal conservation programs (retired).

“This will help Millar Western to better understand and manage potential impacts to wetlands across the entire land base, rather than to only those portions where harvesting activities take place,” he says. “This is important because wetlands are typically interconnected systems, with water moving between them. What you do to one may affect another.”

How wetland information can help forestry companies

There are various ways detailed wetland information can assist forestry companies with decision-making. For example, roads built in wetland areas can result in extra costs for operators, if they are not located or built appropriately. The flow of water in a seemingly still wetland can unexpectedly wash out roads, affecting schedule and budget. Detailed wetland inventories help companies identify the types of wetlands and their different flow characteristics. Planners can then use this information to determine the best areas to construct roads and the most appropriate road design for minimizing environmental impacts to wetlands. The result is win-win: the company can save time and money, and the wetland environment and function is conserved.

Progressive wetland stewardship

Millar Western’s foresters recognize the importance of wetland information and stewardship, and DUC is eager to work with them to further wetland conservation in the boreal forest.  Bob Mason, Millar Western’s chief forester, was equally excited about the potential benefits of working closely with DUC.

“Millar Western looks forward to building a productive working relationship with the folks at DUC and to translating their knowledge and expertise into better management of wetlands in our operating area,” says Mason.

Update: A new MOU to advance boreal wetland stewardship in Alberta

In early 2018, DUC and Millar Western forged a new partnership to conserve wetlands within Alberta’s working forest. The MOU commits DUC and Millar Western to working together on several projects to ensure effective stewardship of wetland and waterfowl resources within Millar Western’s FMA area, located near Whitecourt, Alberta. The MOU extends the existing relationship, establishing a commitment to work together on joint projects  for a period of five years.

Under the MOU, DUC and Millar Western will develop annual work plans – each with identified joint projects that specify objectives, goals, timelines, and financial/other contribution commitments. Projects will include DUC’s pre-submission review of Millar Western’s Operating Ground Rules and training for woodlands staff. DUC will also provide Millar Western with access to its wetlands inventory system.

Wetland mapping and inventory

DUC’s wetland inventory is a mapping product that spatially profiles wetlands throughout Miller Western’s FMA. This inventory is classified to the five major wetland classes of the Canadian Wetland Classification System, including bog, fen, marsh, swamp and shallow open water, and further defines wetland types within each of the five major types to 19 detailed minor wetland classes. Access to the system will enhance Millar Western’s knowledge of wetlands (their location, extent and type), and some of their functions and values, which will aid in forest management planning and operations.

This information, together with training in best practices, will enable Millar Western to minimize or avoid any impacts on wetlands during operations.