Haynes property in December, Alberta (Photo by NCC)

Haynes property in December, Alberta (Photo by NCC)

Red Deer community takes non-native trees home for the holidays

Keltie and Ruby Manolakas at Underwood open house (Photo by NCC)

Keltie and Ruby Manolakas at Underwood open house (Photo by NCC)

With the Christmas season quickly approaching and holiday spirits beginning to grow, the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC’s) Alberta region decided to spread a bit of festive cheer of its own. On Saturday, December 9, NCC hosted an open house at our Underwood property, located in the Red Deer River natural area, where community members, neighbours and partners were invited to come out and visit, share a hot beverage and some baked goods, and take home their very own Christmas tree.

“These types of open house events provide NCC with a great opportunity to connect with our local communities and invite the public to meet the NCC staff that work in their areas,” said Zoë Arnold, NCC's Conservation Volunteers coordinator.

Earlier that week, 13 conservation volunteers removed 40 blue spruce trees from the nearby Haynes property. When NCC acquired the Haynes property in 2011, it also inherited a tree farm full of white and blue spruce. While white spruce is indigenous to the area, the Colorado blue spruce is not; in fact, nowhere in Canada is this tree native, so NCC’s naturalization plan targeted them for removal.

Instead of cutting down all the blue spruce trees at once, NCC plans to gradually remove these trees over the next decade to give the native species time to produce cones and create a more natural, staggered forest than the evenly spaced rows of the tree farm.

Once all of the blue spruce have been removed, NCC plans to diversify the forest by planting native shrubs, aspen and balsam poplar trees.

This is the second year NCC has hosted a tree removal event, followed by a community open house. This year, more than 80 neighbours, donors, partners, landowners and members of the greater Red Deer and area community came out to share in holiday cheer, hot apple cider and roasted marshmallows.

Sadie the dog, an NCC mascot, at the Underwood open house (Photo by NCC)

Sadie the dog, an NCC mascot, at the Underwood open house (Photo by NCC)

“It was a beautiful day, a scenic location and overall just a really fun day. This year we had even more people attend and we hope this continues in the future," said Alia Snively, NCC’s natural area manager for central Alberta. “This event is a great way for us to raise awareness for NCC and the work we do, but more importantly I find it is a unique opportunity for me to meet neighbours and other community members. It is an event that really gets me in the holiday spirit and I look forward to it each year.”

The blue spruce removal was just one of the many events offered by NCC’s Conservation Volunteers program. The program is designed to engage Canadians of all ages in our hands-on conservation efforts across the province. Although the program has now ended for the winter, there will be plenty of opportunities to get out and explore our properties while helping in much-needed stewardship activities again next spring. Stay tuned for the release of the 2018 calendar of events next year!

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