Reclaiming the Other Half of the Athabasca Oil Sands

CIM Montreal 2011
Carol Jones,
Abstract “Reclaiming the land” in the Athabasca Oil Sands is becoming a household phrase in Canada. Advances in soil salvage and placement, increasing biodiversity of forest ecosystems and improved design of the landforms are beginning to change the trajectory of the “reclaimed land” towards a boreal forest. But the boreal forest is much more than just a forest; in the area of Fort McMurray AB, roughly one half of the boreal forest is composed of organic wetlands, often called Muskeg. How important is Muskeg to the boreal forest ecosystem and to the local Aboriginal people? Should Muskeg be reclaimed? Can Muskeg be reclaimed? Ten years ago it was broadly accepted that organic wetlands could not be re-established; in fact this was so well accepted that reclamation of organic wetlands had not been attempted. Over the past decade this conclusion has been re-evaluated and research projects have been undertaken to examine the potential to create organic wetlands in a reclaimed oil sands landscape. This paper examines these questions and the research initiatives necessary to reclaim the other half of the Athabasca Oil Sands.
Keywords: Oil sands, wetlands, Reclamation, boreal forest
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