Mining for the Environment
“The site had Osprey nesting on it for years,” Frick says. “In 2005, a flood washed away the tree with a perch that osprey used to feed, [so] we manufactured a perch for them.” The wildlife management team monitors the platform weekly to evaluate its placement and to ensure its use. Frick says bat boxes also have been installed on some of the sites.
In 2010, Lafarge planted native flower-producing bushes and shrubs, including Saskatoon bushes, Alberta wild roses, dwarf birches, and prairie crocuses, to further enhance the habitat. In 2011, 30 spruce trees were planted.
Frick says Lafarge has been identifying opportunities where it can impact biodiversity and foster use of the area by wildlife while still operating an active pit. “When we decided to pursue certification, a biologist came to the site to do a full inventory and produced an opportunities report,” Frick says. The report provides overlay site maps with a list of plants and animals that are on the site or could be on the site. When the report is provided, Frick says, it notes what can be done to help the species, such as pointing out certain breeding times.
Bee colonies have been on the decline in North America, Frick says, so Lafarge has planted native pollinator gardens on its sites “to give it a bit of a boost.” It does the same for small mammals and birds as it strips a site. “We’ll save some of the woody debris,” he says. “We pile it and make these brush piles. They make a good habitat for small mammals and small birds, but we hope they’ll draw bigger mammals and birds of prey.”
While Lafarge has gone well beyond minimum requirements, developing a sustainability program doesn’t have to be complicated. Although a site must be enhancing or restoring some aspect of native habitat to apply for Wildlife at Work — wildlife team members must monitor the site as part of the program and can’t just focus on one specific animal or write down observances to get certified in a program — a company can still create an uncomplicated sustainability program. “It could be as simple as keeping a log book and noting when a particular bird is seen on site,” Frick points out. By simply keeping this type of log, a site or organization is contributing the information to a database across the continent “so we are adding some good scientific data.”
Although there may be extra work involved, “it’s worth it,” Frick says. “As you build a program, you find that employees who have an interest in the environment start coming out of the woodwork,” he says. “You always assume that you’ll have to own and drive [the program], but you find that employees want to become a part of it. You also start to see a lot of pride. It might have taken some convincing to get employees on board, but once it picks up momentum, it really takes on a life of its own.”
Kristin Salamack, WHC’s intermountain west region biologist who oversees most of the Wildlife at Work programs in the western half of the United States and Canada, says the certification program was started in 1988 after realizing the organization didn’t have a way to recognize or promote corporations to be environmental stewards of the lands they own and operate. “A lot of corporations came on board with aggregates being a main proponent because aggregate mining takes up so much space — but [the producers] also have to reclaim that property,” Salamack says. “Our certification program helps promote the companies that go above and beyond what the base guidelines might be, such as planting native species and setting land aside for sensitive species.”
Salamack points to Lafarge, citing its Lafarge Meadows and Bow River projects, as a good example of a corporation going beyond the baseline legal requirements for environmental sustainability. “Lafarge Meadows in an excellent example because the company graded the borders of the pits into gentle slopes,” Salamack says. “There is a gradual approach to the actual water itself [as opposed to just filling a portion of the pit with water]. Without grading the pit border, it’s hard to vegetate. More wildlife species, including water fowl, are able to use the wetlands if it’s graded. These details are important when you’re talking about converting a reclaimed aggregate pit into a high-functioning wetland habitat.”
Developing a successful program for certification means cultivating relationships, Salamack points out. She says that although WHC is available to assist, the organization oversees programs internationally. This makes it difficult to provide a lot of hands-on support. “But we can provide the linkage for partnerships between other corporate sites and partners in our network,” Salamack says. She adds that it’s critical to involve the operations staff — the actual boots-on-the-ground people who are working — not just management. “Let them know what they need for the certification,” Salamack says. “Partnerships are the key to success.”
WHC President Robert Johnson lauded Lafarge for “its commitment and contributions to wildlife habitat enhancement, community outreach, and conservation education. Formed as an unbridled partnership between corporations, communities, and conservation organizations, the Wildlife Habitat Council exemplifies the power of collaborative conservations as the foundation of environmental stewardship.”
For a photo album of the Lafarge Meadows and Bow River sites, go to the Aggregates Manager Facebook Fan Page (www.facebook.com/aggregatesmanager) and click on the “Wildlife at Work” photo album.