Reclaiming Land the Best Possible Way

oil sands virtual tours forest restoration

Alberta’s oil sands companies are required by law to reclaim 100 per cent of the land disturbed by operations and the environmental standards they uphold are among the most stringent in the world. Reclamation means returning land to a self-sustaining ecosystem complete with local vegetation and a variety of birds, animals and other wildlife. You may be surprised by what reclamation looks like and the efforts that are taken to achieve this goal.

We’ll make it easy; sit back and let the oil sands come to you! Immerse yourself (virtually) in a reclaimed, restored habitat with a natural looking, but human made water body called a compensation lake. Discover how progressive reclamation techniques were used to revegetate the shoreline, create welcoming habitat for fish, and maximize the value of the lake for local communities. 

The compensation lake video is one of several showcased in Your How-To Silvicultural Toolkit, an online guide of free resources – videos, fact sheets and guidebooks – that give anyone interested in land reclamation access to Canadian knowledge and best practice. It recently garnered a 2020 Clean Tech award from the Clean Resources Innovation Network (CRIN).

The COSIA silvicultural toolkit and virtual tours website is designed to bring the field to the office and show reclamation practitioners and managers what the newest and best techniques in reclamation look like. They can see for themselves how applying the right forest techniques can make a big difference to the outcome, even on challenging areas.

COSIA members work hard to be leaders in land reclamation. They’ve honed techniques to encourage the natural ecosystem to re-establish sooner and offer a home for a sustainable habitat with a diverse array of plants and animals. They also believe in sharing what they’ve learned with others, including through the Canadian Land Reclamation Association (CLRA), Canada’s only national association concerned solely with reclamation.

The silvicultural toolkit and virtual tours initiative was carried out by COSIA member companies led by Cenovus Energy Inc., in collaboration with Natural Resources Canada. It aims to build capacity among operators and managers working in reclamation, leading to better outcomes in the field. 

Earlier this year, Cenovus was named an Energy Excellence Awards Champion for restoration work that has resulted in a “paradigm shift on caribou habitat restoration” in the oil sands region. These ongoing efforts are conducted through the company’s Caribou Habitat Restoration program, the largest program of its kind in the world. The Energy Excellence Awards are presented annually by the Daily Oil Bulletin.

Interested in stories like these? See also:

•    Amphibious vehicles in land restoration  
•    The Oil Sand Vegetation Cooperative  
•    Compensation lakes give fish a new home 

For more information about work underway by COSIA members to be world leaders in land management, see other projects in our Land priority area. 

Innovators, if you have technology solutions that could potentially help reduce oil sands exploration footprints, check out COSIA’s Innovation Opportunity for Land

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