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Land Reclamation

Our long-term goal is to restore the previously cultivated and harvested sections of the Riverlot 56 property. To this end we plan to assist the natural processes of reforestation and tree regeneration.  The area north of Sturgeon Road (east of Kingswood Park) is the first focus for planning, of the three large areas that some day would hopefully be restored to forest.

Returning cultivated land back to its original state is not as simple as it might seem. When hay fields, for instance, are no longer cut and harvested, invasive weed species quickly take over. One might wish that there was an immediate switch from grasses and legumes to small shrubs and trees, eventually become a forest, but such is not the case. ‘Pioneering’ weed plants can take over from the ‘farmed’ species. These include Canada thistle, field scabius, tansy and many others. They are considered noxious and regulations are in effect to encourage and even force land owners or land managers like the Society to remove these species when present.

Prior to 2012, we had been stuck in a cycle of cutting and removing hay as a ‘crop’ more to prevent weed growth than anything else but also as a small source of funds for the Society to cover costs for fencing and other management activities associated with a natural area. Management costs have included cutting and removing noxious weeds in some areas where particularly noxious and/or invasive plants have become abundant. Allowing the natural forces of succession to take place, whereby weeds become abundant before shrubs and trees have a chance to grow, is not an option due to the aforementioned regulation.

In 2012, other options and actions were considered. A few actions have been initiated to test what might be feasible, long term, based on limited funding and manpower. The goal is to encourage and support natural regeneration of forest plants, namely trees like balsam poplar and trembling aspen.

Our first action involved a request made of the farmer, who has acted on behalf of the Society to harvest the fields for many years, leaving an uncut border of 10 to 20 metres, particularly in the field north of Sturgeon Road. Since certain trees have the ability to ‘sucker’ new growth from their roots (both aspen and poplar regenerate this way quite effectively), the hope was to initiate a ‘regenerating edge area’ between the cut fields and the existing forest.

A second task (in the fall) was to create 11 small ‘exclosures’ to protect self-regenerating shrubs and trees from the ravages of hungry deer that populate Riverlot 56. A few Saskatoon shrubs and a large number of suckering aspens and poplars located around the edge of the open field in the large, unforested field north of Sturgeon Road were thus protected. The intent is to determine the merit, if any, of physically preventing deer browsing impact on small, naturally regenerating plants. This task, due to high cost and intensive labour, will not likely be attempted elsewhere but will offer us a chance to view the effects of deer browsing-prevention on the specific plants protected.

A third task in 2012 was the application of a deer repellent late in the fall applied directly to the regenerating ‘suckers’ that were found. Most of these were less than a metre in height. It is hoped that browsing by deer will be reduced as a result of this application of repellent and that the edge of regenerating trees will be a first step to a new forest.

When walking the trails at Riverlot 56, look for the evidence of forest regeneration. It is an important feature that the Riverlot 56 Natural Area Society is trying to support.