Taking on climate change through reforestation a ‘roller coaster’ for Edmonton-based Wild + Pine

Chris Kallal, president and CEO of Wild + Pine, holds jack pine with a blueberry hitchhiker plant at the company’s facility at the Edmonton International Airport in Nisku, on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. The company specializes in growing tree seedlings inside its high-tech greenhouse which it uses for reforestation projects to help restore former agricultural and oil well sites to their natural state, and also to help clients meet their carbon offset goals. Photo by Ian Kucerak.

Dedicated to reforesting former energy industry sites to their natural state, the Edmonton-based environmental organization must contend with companies’ ups and downs and corporations that are skeptical of its sustainability mission.

“It’s been a pretty hostile environment,” Kallal said. “Often when companies are purchased or sold, our work gets cut pretty quickly. It’s hard for a company that is on the cost end of oil and gas to roll with the punches.”

Kallal started Wild + Pine just after new regulations in 2010 required energy companies to restore land disturbances to a state of recovery, and his company was later hired to plant trees at former well, oilsand and pipeline sites.

The goal is for sites to become forests in 40 or 60 years and for the client to earn a reclamation certificate from the government, attesting that the site functions similarly to how it did before it was disturbed.

The oil and gas sector is grappling with a looming emissions cap that has been long promised by the federal government. In recent weeks, the Alberta government has announced moves intended to lower the province’s emissions, including funding for carbon-capture utilization and storage (CCUS) projects as well as an accelerated hydrogen strategy.

As the province strives to cut emissions, Kallal said reforestation is a more affordable and natural way of combatting climate change.

“Nature’s carbon capture technology has been here all along and it’s simply a tree,” he said. “They’re a ccessible, readily available and can be deployed at scale economically.”

Despite planting hundreds of thousands of trees across Alberta and high demand for its services in its first seven years, Wild + Pine’s work was sometimes abruptly interrupted depending on the fortunes of its clients.