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Forestry research project wins national award


Edmonton, AB – A project researching soil and water quality in the boreal forest has won a national award from NSERC. The Forest Watershed and Riparian Disturbance (Forward) research initiative, a collaboration including Millar Western Forest Products, Lakehead University, the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and other university and industry partners, has won a 2004 NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation.

The project models the impacts of timber harvesting, as well as natural disturbances such as fire, on soils, hydrological processes, water quality and water flow in Canada’s boreal forests. The results are used to develop decision-support tools for responsible, science-based forest management planning.

“[The project] is aimed at developing innovative approaches to forest management that will help protect water, soils and the full range of forest values by providing forest companies with an improved ability to predict and shape the effects of their management practices,” says Dr Ellie Prepas of Lakehead University and the project’s principal investigator.

The project partnership involves research teams from five Canadian universities: Lakehead University, University of Alberta, University of Saskatchewan, Institut Qubecois d’Amnagement de la Fret Feuillue, and Dalhousie University. In addition to lead industry participant Millar Western, other forest companies are participating in the project: Alberta Plywood, Blue Ridge Lumber, Bowater Canadian Forest Products, Buchanan Forest Products and Vanderwell Contractors.

Millar Western Chief Forester Jonathan Russell says the project will contribute to sustainable economic development benefiting Aboriginal and other rural and northern communities, while helping ensure that Canada’s forest industry remains internationally respected and globally competitive. “By working collaboratively on long-term research aimed at protecting forest values,” said Russell, “this partnership is promoting better forest management practices and better forest policy across Canada, and will provide environmental, social and economic benefits for future generations.”

Millar Western and the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation this year signed a Forest and Economic Development Agreement (FEDA) to increase economic opportunities for the Alexis community, incorporate community input into the forest management planning process, and encourage advanced education for Aboriginal students through scholarship awards. Through the FEDA, Aboriginal concerns, values and knowledge will help guide the Forward research project and other forest management initiatives. This builds on a long-standing relationship between Millar Western and the Alexis peoples, who have worked with the company for many decades.

The Synergy Awards for Innovation were launched in 1995 by NSERC to recognize partnerships in research between universities and industry. Candidates are judged on factors including innovation and creativity, quality of research, superior management processes and effective use of university and industry human and technical resources. The Synergy Award to the Forward project will be presented today in Waterloo, ON, along with awards to six other partnerships singled out for national recognition this year. The winning university researchers receive a $25,000 NSERC research grant, while their industry partners receive a Synergy sculpture commemorating their shared achievement.

Forward itself has received more than $1 million in collaborative research and development grants from NSERC, including an industrial research fellowship (IRF) granted earlier this year valued at $60,000, with matching funds provided by Millar Western. The IRF, granted following an internationally recognized peer review process that deemed Millar Western to have the vision and commitment to conduct world-class research, will provide funding for the study of soil classification as the basis for watershed management within detailed forest management planning processes. To date, NSERC has also awarded three industrial postgraduate scholarships to graduate students involved with Forward, along with a discovery grant of $339,000 to Dr Prepas at Lakehead University for forest-related research.

Forward is also supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The CFI, in partnership with the Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT) and Millar Western, earlier this year awarded an innovation fund grant to Lakehead University to sponsor the training of personnel and building of infrastructure for watershed study sites in the boreal forest. Funding includes $1.1 million from CFI and OIT, $1.7 million in funding from Millar Western and $400,000 from other industry and university partners.