It’s hard to argue the importance that forests play in the world. Naturally, they help keep the air clear but they also provide habitats for an endless array of mammals, birds, and insects. Plus, research has shown they have a positive impact on our physical and mental health.
That’s why Canadians celebrate National Forest Week each year. In 2021, this incredibly important week of celebration runs from Sunday, September 19 to Saturday, September 25. And there will be events going on across the country.
In Saskatoon, that includes a massive tree planting event in Diefenbaker Park on Wednesday, September 22. Meewasin, the City of Saskatoon, and Tree Canada have partnered to plant 100 new trees in the park. The volunteer list is full for this event but that doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate forests in your area!
The history of National Forest Week
This week actually dates back to 1920 when it was known as Forest Fire Prevention Week. While the overall goal was to promote greater public awareness of Canada’s forests, there was still the specific message of reducing forest fires attached to the event.
As time has gone on, we have come to understand the importance fire plays in renewing our environment. That’s why Meewasin has an active prescribed fire program. At the same time, that doesn’t mean we don’t work against careless fires being set anywhere by humans.
After being renamed in 1967, Forest Fire Prevention Week became National Forest Week. This was the start of an evolution of bringing in more of the human and environmental aspects of Canada’s forest resources while still including fires. And Canada has a lot of forest resources.
Celebrating our forests
Part of what makes National Forest Week so special are the various events going on across Canada. In Saskatoon, we have the previously mentioned tree planting day, which actually falls on National Tree Day. But there is more happening in other regions of the country.
A big part of the week is actually getting outside and enjoying nature. National Forest Week is a call to action, both to protect and grow our forests but also to understand them better. The best way to do that is by spending time in the forest.
However you choose to enjoy National Forest Week, just take time to do it. Simply stepping out into the natural world and taking a breath can do wonders for you. It also reminds you of how beautiful, precious, and precarious this resource is.
Beavers are a very important species to the Meewasin Valley, and we recognize and understand that the beavers have a place here in the Valley, as well as their need to take down trees to survive. We recently posted a video all about the importance of beavers!
Research shows that humans also greatly benefit from trees in their environment, which has lead Meewasin and the City of Saskatoon to introduce a lot of trees through the valley as well as in urban areas as canopy for the City. The work put in to planting and caring for these trees raises their value because they’ve been invested in. These trees, as well as trees that are in vulnerable areas (if they were to fall could injure someone on the trail) are the types of trees that need to be protected from beavers.
This fall, Meewasin hosted a volunteer event where participants wrapped trees with mesh wiring to protect them from beavers. We want to once again thank all of the amazing volunteers who joined us at the event and helped set up wrapping around the trees behind the Diefenbaker Centre in the Meewasin Valley.
Meewasin exists to ensure a healthy and vibrant river valley, with a balance between human use and conservation. A prime example of where Meewasin’s expertise is required to strike this balance is between the cute, furry, orange-toothed, tree-cutting rodents known as beavers, and fallen, cut-down trees, which could pose a potential danger to visitors of the Meewasin Trail.
Eager Beavers Get the Tree
Meewasin recognizes that beavers are a very important species to the Meewasin Valley, and celebrates that they are denoted as a keystone species in our area because their work provides shelter and habitat for many other species.
As a native species to the Meewasin Valley and region, beavers have been creating their homes and feeding their families with trees in their habitat for many thousands of years, and will continue to do so.
Check out this Creature Feature videoall about the importance of beavers, the place they have in the city and valley, as well as their need to take down trees to survive.
Leaf that Tree Alone!
Meewasin and the City of Saskatoon annually introduce many trees throughout the valley and in urban areas for many reasons; a few being that countless studies show that humans greatly benefit from trees in their environment, and the fact that trees provide a beneficial canopy in urban areas.
Some trees in vulnerable areas (for example, if they were to fall could injure someone on the trail) and those that are of higher value from being invested in with carefully planting and protection, are the type of trees that need to be protected from beavers.
A method to finding a proper balance of safety, protection and conservation, is to cover these trees with protective mesh that the beavers are not able to climb over or chew through to get to it. Meewasin uses chicken wire-looking protective mesh that the beavers cannot chew through and is placed in a method that won’t girdle the tree.
This fall, Meewasin hosted a physically distant, outdoor volunteer event where participants helped to wrap trees with the protective mesh. We had just under 30 volunteers join us from the community, different organizations, and many participants from WILD Outside, a new conservation leadership program developed by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and funded by the Government of Canada through the Canada Service Corps initiative., where youth aged 15 – 18 get together to enjoy outdoor activities and serve their communities through conservation projects.
One volunteer from WILD Outside, Elisabeth, shares some thoughts about the impact “Such conservation efforts should serve the entire local ecosystem. This includes plants and animals, as well as people. We successfully balanced all three aspects; the beavers have enough food, native trees can thrive and the trail is protected from future tree obstructions. It was such a treat to conclude the event by watching beavers swim near their lodge.”
Another WILD Outside volunteer, Graeme, notes with pride that “Non-destructive methods, like tree-wrapping, can help provide a permanent solution. I think that tree-wrapping is an effective strategy. It prevents beavers from cutting down trees valued by the landowners, while still allowing the ecosystem those trees are a part of to flourish.” Graeme continues with some advising words, “I think that the public has a huge role to play in good urban-wildlife interaction. I believe it is our responsibility to be stewards of the natural world around us. With the help of the public, so much more progress in wildlife conservation can be made.”, he goes on to describe the impact wildlife can have people, “…Sometimes it can be the wildlife that helps us. My experience tree-wrapping was great, and one of the many highlights was being able to see the beaver family and other wildlife nearby. If people can gain a deeper understanding of the natural world through experiencing it, they can be more driven to help conserve it. The charismatic beaver can be an ambassador to the entire natural world, inspiring people young and old to become responsible stewards and benefactors of nature”
To add some further insight into the tree wrapping, volunteer from the WILD Outside crew, Katrina, explained some of the strategy that was implemented: “The concept that I really approve about this tree wrapping event was keeping the eco-balance. Though the purpose of this event was to protect trees from hunting beavers, we also respected the fact that beavers need to survive too. Therefore, we intentionally only wrapped the trees growing on the east side of the pond, leaving the west side trees for the beavers.”
WILD Outside Youth Leader, Raea Gooding, had some interesting observations about the activity as well, “As evidenced during our tree wrapping event on September 24th, everyone enjoys watching the beavers – they drew quite a crowd from volunteers and passers-by alike! I think urban wildlife management is a group effort, requiring citizens, organizations, and decision makers to be knowledgeable and responsible with wildlife. If those that appreciate seeing wildlife are educated on issues and potential solutions, and become part of the discussion, we can make sure we are creating a future of urban wild that works for everyone.”
To Wrap It All Up
We want to once again thank all of the amazing volunteers who joined us at the event and helped set up wrapping around the trees behind the Diefenbaker Centre in the Meewasin Valley. The trees and visitors to the trail will be able to enjoy the area without fear that the trees will fall on the trail or be gone due to resourceful beavers! Listen to the CBC radio interview with Meewasin’s Manager of Planning and Conservation, Mike Velonas, about the tree wrapping event. Join our volunteer list to hear about upcoming opportunities to get involved with Meewasin!
You can keep the Meewasin Valley healthy and vibrant!
Meewasin relies on donations to steward Saskatoon and area’s most treasured space, the Meewasin Valley. We could not provide the river experience we do without help from you, please consider supporting Meewasin through a one time, yearly or monthly donation.