February 2, 2017 11:22 am
Updated: February 2, 2017 11:24 am

Massive $1.3M tree-planting effort in Fort McMurray to start this spring

Heat waves are seen as cars and trucks try and get past a wild fire 16km south of Fort McMurray on highway 63 Friday, May 6, 2016. The "beast" of a wildfire that charred Fort McMurray, Alta., was named Canada's biggest weather story of the year in an annual list compiled by the country's top meteorologists.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
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Tree Canada will start planting new trees this spring in Fort McMurray, nearly a year after wildfire ravaged the area.

The project is dubbed Operation ReLeaf – Fort McMurray, and it has the potential to continue into 2018. More than $1.3 million has been collected by Tree Canada from individuals, as well as corporate sponsors, and donations are still pouring in.

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READ MORE: Contractor wanted to remove burnt trees from Fort McMurray

Communications manager Paul Jorgenson said it is one of the largest tree-planting efforts by the organization.

“We were [in Fort McMurray] last summer surveying and working with the community, trying to find the sites where our efforts would have the best benefit, the best impact and working with the municipal government,” he said.

RELATED: ‘There were thousands of trees lost’: Tree Canada to help Fort McMurray regenerate urban forest

“By the time we secured the funds and sites and all that stuff, the ground was frozen. The spring will be the first shovels in the ground.”

Last summer, president Michael Rosen said the view of forest burnt within Fort McMurray was “disturbing.”

“This is a biggie. There were thousands of trees lost, urban trees. There were millions of trees lost in the bush, in the rural forest, but there were thousands of trees lost in town,” he said.

READ MORE: ‘Hope tree’ a gift to Fort McMurray from a 6- year-old Edmonton girl

Tree Canada contractors and volunteers will help with the tree-planting. Jorgenson said there will be several benchmarks for success with Operation ReLeaf.

“Restoration of the tree canopy, particularly in the community itself, the urban tree canopy. Right now our efforts are focused on Saprae Creek, Thickwood and Metis Local 1935. Next year, the intention is to roll out to Beacon Hill.”

The organization has helped with forest regeneration following natural disasters across Canada, including here in Alberta after the southern Alberta floods in 2013 and the 2014 freak September snow storm in Calgary.

with files from Caley Ramsay, Global News

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