The Harlequin Duck Migration & Connectivity Project

We believe it is important to protect and sustainably manage the land where we operate. Throughout Western Canada, the forestlands where we operate are under regulation by federal, provincial, and local environmental and aboriginal authorities. West Fraser pays fees for the right to harvest from this government-owned land, and in Alberta, some of this fee (also called “stumpage”) is put towards the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA). FRIAA in turn, provides funding for practical and applied research that aims to enhance Alberta’s forest resources in a sustainable manner.

Research organizations and companies like ours apply to FRIAA to access funds for forestry-specific research, including special projects that take steps to observe and improve healthy forest ecosystems. In many instances, these projects focus on species at risk. A recent project we’ve chosen to participate in is the Harlequin Duck Migration and Connectivity Project.

Male Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Ducks, a colourful duck species with trademark white patches around their face, are considered a species of conservation priority throughout western North America. These small sea ducks spend winters along rocky coastlines and migrate inland to breed on swift flowing, clear mountain streams. One of the streams they breed on is right near our Hinton, Alberta operations. 

Beth MacCallum, the biologist leading the Alberta portion of this project, approached our resident Habitat & Wildlife Biologist, Laura Trout to see if we would like to help with tracking the ducks’ migration patterns. The ducks are being tracked by different scientific research groups in several other parts of North America including British Columbia and the states of Montana, Washington, and Wyoming. “For the past two years, we’ve been helping with capturing the ducks when they arrive at the stream near Hinton to properly implant tracking devices and bands to the ducks. We’re learning a lot about their migration patterns, which is very helpful to understand how West Fraser can take the right measures in our land management practices to ensure their critical habitats are kept safe,” says Laura Trout.

Initial reporting of the project has been successful, learning that most of the ducks stop at the stream for breeding and quickly thereafter migrate directly to the coast without many stopping inland. “We will continue to volunteer within this important project to contribute to the scientific community to work towards filling some of the knowledge gaps about these beautiful creatures,” says Laura Trout.

Laura Trout with a female Harlequin Duck
Photo taken by Daniel E. Barry