Dozens of central Albertans took part in a festive tree harvest event near Pine Lake on Saturday.
It was hosted by the Nature Conservancy of Canada for the second year-in-a-row at the Underwood property, about twenty minutes southeast of Red Deer. It allowed those who attended the open house-style event to take home a Colorado blue spruce Christmas tree from the nearby Haynes property and enjoy some refreshments by a campfire at the same time.
NCC Volunteers Coordinator Zoe Arnold, says they are a land trust organization with offices in Edmonton and Calgary, along with rural staff who work to protect intact land of ecological diversity.
“Land comes to us either through purchasing, donation or conservation easements,” says Arnold. “Once we protect that land, we work to steward it, so here in the Red Deer area, we’re quite active in central Alberta.”
Arnold says 13 volunteers went out to the Haynes property on Thursday and harvested 40 trees to be given away as a donation during Saturday’s open house.
“We put invitations out to our neighbours, our lease holders, our easement holders, as well as partner organizations and the local media to try and get the community out and come here, talk with members of NCC staff, hear what we’re about and take home a Christmas tree.”
She estimates more than 70 people came out to the open house and took away over 25 blue spruce Christmas trees.
“Ideally, we would like to see all 40 of these trees go, that’s our goal,” stated Arnold. “But if they don’t, we have some contacts who we can donate them to.”
NCC Natural Area Manager for Central Alberta, Alia Snively, says the Red Deer region is part of what’s known as the ‘Central Parkland Natural Area’.
“It’s a transition zone between the boreal forest to the north and the grasslands to the south, so you get a lot of really unique habitat cause of the transition zone,” says Snively. “You get aspen stands, hills of grasses and wetlands and just the diversity and habitat is really great for a large variety of wildlife. Also this area is known as the ‘Prairie Pothole Region’, so it’s very important for waterfowl for their migratory and nesting habitat.”
Zoe Arnold points out that although they have no plans to harvest anymore blue spruce trees from the Haynes property this year, she says they certainly plan to do it again next year.
When NCC bought the Haynes property in 2011, it inherited a tree farm full of white and blue spruce. According to NCC officials, white spruce is indigenous to the area, while blue spruce is not native to any part of Canada. Therefore, NCC’s naturalization plan has targeted blue spruce trees for removal over the next several years.
NCC has actively been working in the Red Deer River area for more than a decade and to date, has helped to conserve 9,500 acres in the area. Officials say the area was selected for conservation because it contains the highest density of intact parkland in central Alberta.
To take part in next year’s NCC tree harvesting event, visit Conservationvolunteers.ca.
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