National ecology expert holds workshop in Fort St. James

Use of natural materials vital for environmental restoration

On May 15 at the College of New Caledonia’s Fort St. James campus, national expert on plant ecology and environmental reclamation, David Polster, began day one of a two day site restoration bioengineering course in Fort St. James.

The free workshop course, which was dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their ability to perform incredible engineering feats, started its first day with an introduction to soil bioengineering theory, something that Polster has been studying and working with for over 40 years.

“Soil bioengineering is the use of living plant materials to perform an engineering function,” states Polster on his website, “These bioengineered systems can be used to stabilize steep, unstable slopes, providing a cover of vegetation that initiates the successional processes that will maintain a vegetation cover on the slope forever.”

Polster believes these natural techniques are extremely versatile, due to both the way that they establish and foster favourable conditions for further plant life to grow, but that the can be implemented in hard to reach areas.

“Soil bioengineering systems are installed mostly by hand and can be used in locations where machine access is difficult,” states Polster.

Day one continued with an overview of soil bioengineering techniques that have been developed and used by Polster, with great success. Some methods, like wattle fences, which are short walls that jut out from steep slopes that suffer from soil failure, provide these areas an opportunity to regain ever important plant life.

Other methods such as live palisades — large cottonwood posts that are placed in areas where an eroding river has destroyed the vegetation — could potentially be very important to a community that is situated right beside a large body of water, like Stuart Lake.

Day two of the workshop course, which was sponsored by Mount Milligan in conjunction with Centerra Gold, was completely dedicated to applying the theory that was learned on day one and subsequently applying it to the field. From harvesting plant materials to hands-on bioengineering, interested participants would learn to implement techniques like slope stabilization and soil erosion control.

For Polster, who has worked as the environmental supervisor for CP Rail’s humongous Rogers Pass Project and successfully reimplemented the vegetation of the Point Grey cliffs at the University of British Columbia, the workshops that he conducts nationally are all apart of a bigger picture.

An appreciation and fascination of vegetation studies, reclamation and invasive species management has led Folster to solve legitimate problems regarding invasive plant life, as well as striving towards his overarching goal — ensuring ecological resilience can be truly be achieved in our world.

For further information concerning restoration bioengineering and David Polster’s work, go to

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