‘Operation ReLeaf’ set to dig in 1 year after devastating Fort McMurray wildfire

Burned trees are shown in Saprae Creek near Fort McMurray, Alta, on Friday June 3, 2016.
Burned trees are shown in Saprae Creek near Fort McMurray, Alta, on Friday June 3, 2016. Jason Franson, The Canadian Press

Thousands of people in Fort McMurray either have rebuilt or are rebuilding their homes after last year’s devastating wildfire, but one group is focused on restoring something more natural.

Tree Canada is spending $1 million to bring trees back to the city, as a part of Operation ReLeaf.

Paul Jorgenson, a spokesperson with the organization, said it’s going to be a massive undertaking.

“This will be the single largest tree-planting initiative we’ve ever attempted in our organization’s history,” Jorgenson said. “It’s pretty ambitious.”

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

Seventy-thousand trees are planned for this year alone, in what will be a multi-year effort.

“We’re already starting to lay the groundwork for 2018, and also, possibly, 2019 as well.”

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

The trees will not only be good for the environment, but will also help people heal, as the new trees will replace the ones that were burned.

“Communities need parks and green space,” Jorgenson said. “They need this to help have a sense of normalcy, to return to everyday life.”

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire: boreal forest slowly bouncing back

Jorgenson stated that while trees will grow back on their own, it’s a slow process and trees in the city often take more care to be properly rooted.

For now, they just have to wait until the ground thaws, and then shovels can hit the ground.

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