Aerial fertilization underway in Lakes District and area

Aerial fertilization is part of provincial effort to increase timber supply.

Fertilizer is coming down from above in southern areas of the Lakes forest district as part of the province’s larger forest fertilization strategy.

Ground crews are present to ensure that the fertilizer is not being spread outside of proscribed areas. A local rancher, Annie Van Metre of the Double Box Ranch, met with ministry representatives and a range person to discuss concerns she had regarding the timing of the application. Van Metre was concerned that there might be too much fertilizer spread in open range or that there would be spills when loading the helicopter’s aerial hopper. Her cattle are free range and according to Van Metre, would find the fertilizer appetizing.

“They [the Ministry] agreed to delay doing direct fertilization in the plots that were on a range until the very end, which would be two or three weeks down the road,” said Van Metre. This would mean that her cattle would be in from the range and that there might be more moisture in the ground to soak up the fertilizer.

In an email from a Vivian Thomas, Communications Manager for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the fertilizer is described as “agricultural grade”  and non-toxic to the cows and other large ruminants that might be in the area. The spokesperson added that the fertilizer is being spread in forested areas meaning that short-term moisture levels aren’t as much of a concern.

Van Metre saw the forested areas where the application was to be spread. “The stands are pretty thick where they’re doing this,” Van Metre said. “There wouldn’t be any access for the animals to get in there because the trees are so close together.”

Ministry documents caution that a large spill of the fertilizer might allow a potentially toxic amount to be ingested, but Van Metre was satisfied that the ministry’s oversight of the contractors involved would be diligent in this regard.

According to Thomas, helicopters have been fertilizing in the Lakes District since Sept. 20 and will continue until Oct. 10, 2012. The program is paid for through with Land Based Investment Strategy funding, while the project is being administered locally by Hampton Affiliates. Western Aerial Applications Ltd. of Abbotsford, B.C. is doing the application. They where selected from a short list of qualified applicators the ministry keeps on file.