Over a decade ago the old growth spruce trees across from the fertilizer plant on the North Road in Nikiski started dying off even before the spruce bark beetle infestation had reached them.
According to Denise Newbould, Environment, Health, and Safety Superintendent at Agrium, the trees died off due to some upsets at the fertilizer producing plant. "In the seventies and even early eighties there were some significant upsets at the plant. We now have flares and other control technology in place that prevent that from happening, but back then with large upsets we over fertilized the area basically. But now that same fertilizer is at an optimal level instead of being too much it's great conditions for the new trees and they are just eating it up," said Newbould.
When the dead trees were first removed, the area came in very thick with grasses which choked out any natural new growth trees, "The key was to break the grass cycle, so we had to mechanically tear the grass out and make trenches to plant the trees. We then used mats, clipped the grass and babied them at first until they got big enough to compete with the grass on their own," explained Newbould. The 8-10 inch seedlings that were planted some eight years ago now are standing over 10 feet high in some places.
Along with the native White Spruce stock, non-native Lodge Pole pine, Mountain Ash, and Birch trees were planted, "The birch we planted are really birch bushes because the Moose like them so much, but the Mountain Ash are doing very well, and some of the lodge pole pines are already over 12 feet tall, and now we have all kinds of shrubs and natural seedlings coming in on their own that we didn't plant," said Newbould.
The planting of the new trees was not done in rows like many reforestation projects and therefore has taken on a very natural appearance even though non-native species were introduced, "When we broke up the grass with our trenches, we meandered around and I have to say that the State Forestry people were fantastic working with us and it was their expertise that we drew on to make this project such a great success," added Newbould.
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