The Kotcho Lake Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund project is focused on restoring legacy seismic lines in core boreal caribou habitat located in the Snake Sahtenah range. Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN) identified this area as a high priority for restoration due to the cultural importance of the area, the value of the area for caribou and other species, and the very high density of old seismic lines, which were not recovering on their own. Restoration work is conducted in the late summer, using light machinery to access intersections of old seismic lines and transplant “donor” mounds from areas beside the seismic lines. Donor mounds are then transplanted with black spruce seedlings, and trees are felled around the transplanted sites to block the lines until the mounds can establish. By treating in the summer, FNFN believe that restored sites will more closely resemble natural sites than areas treated in the winter. Summer treatments may also prove less expensive than winter work, which is currently the industry standard for restoring these sites. FNFN’s hypothesis is that the donor mounds will quickly establish on seismic lines and accelerate ecological recovery. By treating line intersections, they anticipate seeing reduced use of the untreated areas between the intersections by wolves and other predators. Overall, FNFN hope this approach (treating in the summer; hummock transplants and tree falling; focusing on intersections; and selecting key access routes) can result in effective restoration over a large area of the landscape. Monitoring of the vegetation response, the wildlife use of treated and untreated areas, and the overall cost of the treatments in comparison to winter work is ongoing to determine treatment effectiveness.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development for making this project possible.